A teenager has been arrested after a series of violent threats forced schools to close Friday in South Burlington, Vermont.
After the FBI joined in the investigation, South Burlington Police assisted in the arrest of 18-year-old Josiah Leach, a student at South Burlington High School, police chief Trevor Whipple said in a statement.
Leach, police believe, is responsible for a series of threats against his own high school.
"The South Burlington Police Department takes threats, such as those disseminated [this] week, as an affront to our entire community," Whipple said in the statement. "The level of anxiety, fear and frustration felt by our residents, students and school staff is unacceptable and will now be addressed by the judicial system."
Thursday, school officials called off all classes in the entire district for Friday following three days of threats, which included a supposed "murder list."
Then Friday, another threat was received, police said, in video form.
The latest news from around the state
Necn has chosen not to broadcast that video, in order to deny its sender any additional notoriety.
"It creates scars that are hard to heal quickly," South Burlington school superintendent David Young said of the toll several days of lockdowns, dismissal changes, and other disruptions have caused the community.
"We believe in a safe, viable community, particularly here in South Burlington," Chief Trevor Whipple of the South Burlington Police Dept. said. "And when we see something that takes place that really kind of turns that on its head, it's really troubling."
Whipple said he met with some people named on the "murder list," and was moved by the fear they were put under.
He said those meetings underscored the urgency of his department’s investigation, which has seen a great deal of attention over the past few days.
The FBI lent its cyber-crimes expertise to the local authorities. Whipple said the federal authorities’ specialized computer crime knowledge could prove extremely valuable as the investigation progresses.
Some of the threats were sent via email, and the video was shared on social media, police said.
With classes called off, parents scrambled to re-arrange plans. Playgrounds, basketball courts, and the city’s ice rink were all busy Friday.
Despite the headaches that came with the sudden changes, South Burlington dad Scott Baker said canceling school was the right call, especially because next week is spring break in South Burlington anyway.
“[It was] probably less disruptive to just keep the kids home today, rather than have them locked in their classrooms for a couple hours again, or sending them home two hours early,” Baker told necn.
Forensic psychologist Tom Powell said anonymous email or internet threats are often a power-grab by people who feel otherwise powerless or on the margins of society.
“This is, of course, the peril of our electronic age,” Powell said. “They think they are able to do this and get a surge of control of the moment, without being accountable for it.”
In one of the threats, the suspect said he or she was disappointed with the community’s recent decision to change the name of the high school mascot from the Rebel.
However, police would not discuss that or any other specifics of their ongoing investigation. They also declined to comment on whether the threats may be coming from within the community or from out-of-state.
Chief Whipple said several dozen tips have come into tip lines established for the case, and he urged community members to keep sharing those tips.
Whipple said even information that may seem minor may enable investigators to connect dots that could help put this ordeal to an end.
Anyone with information on the series of school threats is asked to come forward. There is a recorded tip line at 802-846-4187. Champlain Valley Crime Stoppers can be reached at 1-800-427-TIPS, and anonymous texts can be sent to 844-848-8477.
Tips can also be submitted anonymously through this web portal.
If a caller does not wish to remain anonymous, that caller can reach South Burlington Police at 802-846-4111.