A 16-year-old Highland Park High School student was arrested Wednesday afternoon for a series of electronic threats that began last month on the heels of several evacuations.
The boy’s 17 “electronic messages” included threats of violence to the school, staff, and fellow students, and were so well-masked that University Park police turned to federal law enforcement for help cracking the cyber crime.
The announcement came with many thank-yous: to the FBI’s Dallas office, the Secret Service, the Highland Park Department of Public Safety, and school administrators and staff.
However, students “deserve more credit than anyone else,” HPHS principal Walter Kelly said at a news conference later that afternoon, a couple of hours after University Park detectives arrested the boy on campus. Many students “were frustrated, were dismayed by this,” he said, “were really put off by it in a very serious way.”
Kelly cautioned that the breakthroughs in the case, which is still ongoing, “are not cause for celebration.” The suspect’s 17 separate felony charges don’t apply to the series of handwritten bomb threats that began in January, or the scattered shells found in February in a boys bathroom; those are still under investigation, University Park Police Chief Gary Adams said.
Reports of the electronic messages began in March. Before the month’s end, an anonymous donor kicked in $20,000 for a Crime Stoppers award, bringing the total bounty for information to $30,000.
Investigators got their cyber leads by other means, Adams said, though tracing the source of the messages — which included texts and even an email to Crime Stoppers — was complex enough to suggest the culprit “was pretty savvy, I would say.”
HPISD won’t discipline the boy — who is not being named because of his age — without due process, Superintendent Dawson Orr said, but the string of felonies “certainly does provide a basis for expulsion.”
Sarah Bennett contributed to this report.