By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: January 18, 2019 | 2:15 p.m
SURRY & SUSSEX COUNTIES – Surry County Sheriff’s Office investigators are preparing to move forward with seeking petition for the arrest of a juvenile in connection with the series of threats targeted at Surry and Sussex County Schools last week.
According to Sheriff Ernest Giles of neighboring Sussex County, the petition comes after a juvenile confessed during questioning Monday to sending out the more recent threats that were shared on social media platform Instagram.
Those threats prompted both school divisions to cancel all after-school activities last week.
“I was contacted on Monday by our school resource officer Corporal Eric Johnson, about a student sharing an Instagram post saying the schools better beware, with a gang of bloods sign,” said Sussex County Sheriff Ernest Giles. “This was followed by more posts on Tuesday, with threats like ‘shooting up the school system,’ and a photo of a big gun and ammunition. The target days for the incidents were last Wednesday and Thursday.”
“We immediately began investigating,” Giles added, “and no incidents were carried out due to the quick thinking of Corporal Eric Johnson, known as ‘OJ (Officer Johnson) by the kids at Sussex County High School, combined with efforts by Investigator John Ogburn, both of whom have worked nonstop on this situation to get us as far as we have. We especially appreciate the cooperation of the public, the staff and administrations of both county school systems, the Virginia State Police and investigators of the Sussex and Surry County Sheriffs’ Offices. We have been taking this very seriously.”
“We realized during the investigation that the week of school testing, we get a threat.” Giles continued. “And now the Virginia State Police High Tech Crime Unit is involved in tracking down the perpetrators of this hoax. We have served search warrants on a household of interest and collected electronic means of communication from the residence, which was sent off to that High Tech Crime Unit.”
“Every year for the last four years something like this has come up around this time,” Sussex County School Superintendent Arthur Jarrett added, “but we are being cautious and keeping up the with situation. We are working hand in hand with law enforcement, including increased monitoring, supervising, and law enforcement presence at all schools.”
Both Superintendent Jarrett and Superintendent Thornton, of Surry County Schools, immediately alerted parents when the incident began, and said that the students and parents handled it well. Each school system has a regular policy of keeping entrance doors secured so that even parents cannot walk into school buildings without being admitted, and both sheriffs stressed that there is a continuous law-enforcement presence in the schools.
“The incident is still under investigation,” Giles added, and we are awaiting results from lab tests on the seized materials now. There has been no more threat-activity since seizure of the devices – no new Instagram posts – and the accounts from which they came are now inactive.”
Both Sheriff Giles and Sheriff Turner said that they want to assure parents that the safety of the students is their number one concern.
“We continue to work with the Sussex Sheriff’s office and have safety measures in place and extra deputies at all three Surry county schools,” Turner added.
“We want to thank everyone who has helped with this ongoing effort to keep our kids safe,” Giles said. “It’s a collaborative effort, and we really want to thank the state police for their immediate and intense involvement in this situation. It all started with our school resource officer, then the schools – then everyone did their part. When the community works together, things get done.”
According to Giles, as of Monday, the Virginia State Police’s High Tech Crimes Unit is still awaiting results from the other social media threats.