Police: Rumors muddle possible threat probe

December 19, 2012

Law enforcement investigators base their cases on facts, not rumors.

That’s what makes sorting out possible threats involving Granbury High School such a long, painstaking process, according to Deputy Chief Alan Hines of the Granbury Police Department.

The prime example was a message written on a brick of a wall outside GHS that stated:

“We are anonymous

We are legion

We do not forgive

We do not forget

Expect us!!!”

Those words, taken in the context of the aftermath of the massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six adults Friday in Newtown, Conn., were feared by some to be a threat of violence. At least one Metroplex television station broadcasted the message as if it was factually known to be related to possible threats.

However, according to students at GHS, the message had been there “for weeks” before the Newtown tragedy.

“This (the cryptic message), we don’t think has anything to do with it,” Hines said Monday afternoon. “Sure, it is a concern across the United States in light of what happened in Connecticut. What we’ve found so far is hearsay.”

Other rumors spread quickly on Instagram, Facebook and other social media outlets.

But, so far, no arrests have been made – for good reason. The facts simply aren’t known. No specific threats have been verified, according to Hines.

“We’re trying to sort out what’s related and what’s not related,” Hines said. “We can’t deal on rumor. If we don’t have the facts, there’s nothing we can do right now. It’s not something we can do overnight.

“You’re not dealing with a handful of people (to be interviewed), and you don’t know how far this extends. We’ve talked to a lot of kids. We’ve got a lot of people to talk to, and the list grows every time we talk to someone.”

Hines said his first word about the rumors came when he was out of the office on Friday.

“I got a call from a parent who heard it from a kid,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know “where it originated from and what’s real and what’s hearsay. If it was a clearcut case where a person made a threat, they would be in jail. But you have to go through the investigation of the information received.”

INITIAL RESPONSE

On Saturday, Granbury police issued a news release on the situation which stated in part:

“The Granbury Police has been made aware of a report regarding an alleged threat at Granbury High School. Although there are numerous rumors being passed around the social media sites, these rumors have not been confirmed. The Granbury Police Department is taking all reports received as fact and will investigate the report to determine if it is real or fictitious.”

The statement added that additional officers had been assigned to Granbury High School this week “as a precautionary measure.”

GISD formerly had an agreement with the Hood County Sheriff’s Office to provide School Resource Officers (SROs) at the high school, but that has not been the case since 2011 because of budget cutbacks. Jeff Hastings of the GPD is the D.A.R.E. officer for the GISD.

“They elected not to have SROs. From my understanding, it is budgetary,” Hines said of the change, which occurred before the current superintendent was hired. “Jeff roams to each school – the high school and the others.”

On Monday Hines added that additional “security will be up there as the situation dictates.”

A Hood County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, Lieutenant Johnny Rose, said that in the event of any school campus violence, personnel “would assist (police) in any way possible, if asked.”

Hines shot down a couple of other rumors erroneously reported by area media outlets.

“We didn’t find a gun, and we haven’t made any arrests,” Hines said, adding that there is no physical evidence of a crime being committed. “If you focus on one direction, then you may miss something while you’re focused in that one direction.”

As one example of a possible outcome, if a suspect were to be arrested on a charge of making a terroristic threat, it would have to be proven that there was an imminent threat of danger, Hines suggested.

“It depends on the situation, whether you have enough for criminal charges or not,” Hines said. “There may be other charges, depending on the circumstances. If we can prove the law and he is in violation of the law then an arrest will be made.”

Hines said investigators have no solid information about a possible suspect being either male or female, or whether or not there could be more than one person involved if the threat is found to be real.

Police investigators continue to interview multiple students in an effort to sort out the facts.

“We’re going to a lot of houses and talking to kids,” Hines said. “Right now there is nothing rock solid. We’re sorting things out and trying to find a lead.”

Worst of all, the rumors can actually hinder the efforts of law enforcement officers.

“This stuff hurts us in a criminal case,” Hines said.

[email protected] | 817-573-7066, ext. 254

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