A school threat circulating among students and parents in East Lake and Tarpon Springs isn’t credible and originated in Texas, police said Friday.
Authorities traced back the reported Snapchat images to an 18-year-old man in San Juan, Texas, who was arrested on Tuesday, officials from law enforcement and the Pinellas County school district said. No one locally has been arrested.
A concerned parent of a Tarpon Springs High student contacted police Thursday night, said Tarpon Springs police Maj. Jeffrey Young. Around the same time, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office received reports from East Lake High parents, said Sheriff’s Sgt. Jessica Mackesy.
An investigation led authorities to the case in Texas. According to a report in The Brownsville Herald, Texas authorities arrested Gustavo Garcia on terrorism and firearm threat charges.
Police there didn’t release the Snapchat images, but, the Herald wrote, they matched the description of images circulating on social media that showed one photo of a piece of paper listing several schools and another with a hand holding a gun. The poster wrote that they wanted to seek revenge on bullies at the schools.
Pinellas authorities don’t know how the images landed in Pinellas. Reports to police indicated that students had seen the posts circulating on Snapchat, not that any specific student had shared them, Mackesy said.
In an email to parents, East Lake High Principal Carmela Haley wrote that the “Snapchat has spread like wild fire.” The principal of East Lake Middle School Academy of Engineering also sent an email to parents, using the same language. Both schools will have additional police officers on campus as a precaution, the principals wrote.
The bogus threat comes on the second anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. That shooting killed 17 people and sparked sweeping school safety reforms, including new ways to report school threats.
Both Young and Mackesy said they were grateful that parents quickly reported the images. Police take school threats seriously, they said, and investigators were able to quickly determine they weren’t credible because of the reports.
“Everybody that ... called us did what they were supposed to,” Mackesy said.