Officials quiet on details after review of Tarpon Springs High death threat

A “debriefing” was held Tuesday, after a threat was made Sept. 4 against the life of Tarpon Springs High School principal James Joyer.
A “debriefing” was held Tuesday, after a threat was made Sept. 4 against the life of Tarpon Springs High School principal James Joyer.
Published Sept. 30, 2015

School officials and police on Tuesday reviewed their low-key response to a Sept. 4 death threat at Tarpon Springs High, but emerged from their meeting without shedding anymore light on the incident.

"Student and staff safety is a top priority for Pinellas County Schools and Tarpon Springs Police Department," the school district said in a statement. "Today's meeting reaffirmed the commitment from both organizations to continuously improve safety plans and processes. We look forward to working in partnership to maintain a safe learning environment at Tarpon Springs High School."

The meeting, described as a "debriefing," was attended by Chief Robert Kochen and Maj. Jeffrey Young of the Tarpon Springs Police Department, along with department officers Cpl. Taurean Mathis and Ryan Fields, who serve as resource officers at the school. Also present were area superintendent Ward Kennedy, Pinellas Schools police chief Rick Stelljes and Tarpon Springs High principal James Joyer.

Asked whether the matter was closed, school spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said the district will continue looking into it. She said she could not release details about the school's safety plan.

The meeting was called after the Tampa Bay Times published details about the incident, which started when an irate man called the principal's office and said he planned to come and kill Joyer.

The principal quickly stopped a school resource officer's efforts to trace the man's call, according to police and district accounts. One resource officer said in his report that Joyer's secretary called him "and advised me to hang up the phone and do not pursue this matter any further."

At the time, it was unclear whether the caller was serious about his threat or whether he was armed. There were no calls for police backup or to secure the school through a lockdown or a lockout.

One of the officers, Mathis, reached Edward S. Ecker, 56, by phone a week later, using the number that was called to make the threat. Police said Ecker admitted to the officer that he made the threatening call and that it had to do with "personal issues."

Police put the matter to rest after a computer search found Ecker had no criminal background. But a check by the Times found that Ecker served 24 months' probation in North Carolina for three misdemeanors, including a charge for an assault on a woman in 2007. Ecker, a St. Petersburg businessman, has not been charged in the Tarpon Springs High threat.

Joyer has declined to be interviewed.

Colleen Wright can be reached at or (727) 893-8643. Twitter: @Colleen_Wright.