Teen gamer charged with making school shooting threat online

Casey Grove

A freshman at East High School faces a charge of terroristic threatening and possible expulsion from the school district after mentioning plans for a school shooting to a person with whom he'd been playing online video games.

Anchorage police are not publicly identifying the 15-year-old, who was jailed at McLaughlin Youth Center, a police spokeswoman said. Police and the Anchorage School District are saying very little about the nature of the threat or the subsequent investigation that led to the boy's arrest.

The 15-year-old was playing an online video game with two other children who were outside Alaska on Wednesday night when he said something about a possible plan for a school shooting, police spokeswoman Anita Shell said. Shell would not comment on exactly what the boy said, if the other players knew his name or how they found out he was in Alaska. The threat was not directed specifically at East High, she said.

"It was just a general comment about shooting up a school," Shell said. "They knew he was in Alaska, and made contact with the school district."

According to the school district, one of the other video game players called school officials here to warn them. The school's principal called police, who initiated an investigation that led them to the teenager's house, Shell said. The officers on the case are not releasing many details of the investigation, including whether they confirmed the teen actually made the threatening comments or if he had the means to carry out an attack, Shell said.

"They're not releasing information about what was found in the home. It's part of the open investigation," Shell said. "We can't randomly arrest people just on mere words. So there would've been more information gathered to make the arrest."

Shell would not say what information, other than the gamer's previous report, led to the arrest.

It was apparently enough to have the student placed on an emergency suspension and for the school district to recommend to the Anchorage School Board that he be expelled, district spokeswoman Heidi Embley said. Embley said the district found the threat to be credible but she declined to comment on what specifically the district learned that caused officials to recommend expulsion or what general guidelines they follow in such incidents.

"There isn't a set line. It's all determined on a case-by-case basis as to whether the district recommends expulsion," Embley said.

During an executive session at one of its next meetings, the school board will have a confidential discussion about expelling the teenager, Embley said.

"It's a private student matter that we're not going to share with the public," she said. "We took the matter very seriously. ... We diverted a potentially very dangerous situation. And we commend the student who spoke up and told a trusted adult. That's not always easy to do."

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.