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No arrest yet in school threat; charges expected

May 11, 2017 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Police have not yet arrested anyone in connection with the threat made this week to Riverton schools, but officials say they intend to press charges.

"Our goal is to make an arrest," Riverton Police Department Capt. Todd Byerly said Thursday, adding, "We do not have anybody, at this point, in custody."

No one was injured in the incident, which involved a note found Tuesday evening at Riverton High School.

RPD interim chief Eric Murphy said the note indicated "there was going to be violence."

By Wednesday afternoon, Murphy said the threat had been deterred.

Safety

The RPD met with school administrators Tuesday evening to develop a safety plan. The team decided not to cancel school, but officials did release information to the community about the presence of a threat.

As a result, many parents chose to keep their kids home on Wednesday.

"We had about half of them out," Fremont County School District superintendent Terry Snyder said Thursday. "It was a very unusual day."

He said teachers implemented alternative lesson plans while police armed with long guns patrolled campuses throughout town.

Byerly said the officers offered emotional support to worried students, too.

"It's not like we were just armed and glaring at them - we engaged with the kids," Byerly said.

Snyder said he received positive feedback from several parents Thursday who appreciated the district's handling of the situation.

"Our staff and the police force just did a great job of helping our kids through yesterday," Snyder said. "That was important - that our kids (knew) we were there to protect them."

The extra police presence was not in place Thursday, when Snyder said attendance was back to normal.

"Parents should feel comfortable sending their kids to school even though there hasn't been an arrest made," Byerly said.

Person of interest

Murphy said the RPD identified a person of interest Wednesday morning and brought the student in for questioning before school began.

Byerly could not release much information about the individual Thursday due to the ongoing investigation.

"I can't say (the person has) been ruled out, but I can't say they're a focus of our investigation either," Byerly said.

The high school student was the subject of searches executed Wednesday involving his house, his car and his school notebooks, Murphy said.

Byerly said police also conducted several interviews Wednesday.

"We're continuing with interviews today and following up on some of the evidence collected as a result of those search warrants," he said.

He could not say whether any firearms were found in the student's possession.

Snyder said the person of interest was not in class Thursday.

Intent

On Wednesday, Snyder said he hopes the RPD investigation into the incident results in an arrest and a conviction.

"We want it to be pursued as aggressively as possible," he reiterated Thursday.

Murphy said whoever wrote the note could be charged with making terroristic threats.

One question that must be answered to determine whether that charge is appropriate has to do with the suspect's intent.

"Did they really intend to cause this community panic and alarm?" Byerly asked. "You've got to follow the evidence."

The RPD is working with the Fremont County Attorney's Office to determine what charges will be appropriate based on the results of the investigation.

Once the arrest has been made, Byerly noted, more details will likely be available.

"We know the community wants more information, and we want to give more information, but to maintain the integrity of the (investigation) there are only certain things we can divulge at this time," he said.
 

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