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Published: Saturday, 12/2/2000

1 charged over threat on school via hot line

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

WAPAKONETA - Police have charged a student at Wapakoneta High School in connection with remarks he allegedly made about killing people there during a phone call to a confidential crisis hot line.

The boy, a 15-year-old Cridersville resident, is charged with delinquency by inducing panic, which is equivalent to an adult misdemeanor count. He faces a hearing in Auglaize County Juvenile Court.

Wapakoneta police Chief David Harrison, Sr., said yesterday that the boy made the statements, which included references to firearms and bombs, during an anonymous call the evening of Nov. 2 to the Hope Line, a Lima-based counseling service. The counselor contacted police.

“In the course of the conversation, he talked about some problems he was having with some individuals,” Chief Harrison said. “He was upset about how he was treated.”

The youth said he was angry with about 50 people at the school, the chief said.

“When the counselor asked, `How could you change their opinion of you?' he answered, `I could shoot them,'” the chief said. “He admitted that he had access to a firearm. And then he said something about `I could blow them up,' and she said, `What do you mean? Do you have the ability to make a bomb?' And he answered in the affirmative.”

Chief Harrison said police notified school officials the next day. Wapakoneta officers and explosive-detecting dogs from the Allen County sheriff's department searched the building for two hours, the chief said.

Police found no proof that the boy had access to weapons nor a plan to attack.

“They didn't find anything, and, in the course of events, the school was able to come up with a name for us,” the chief said. “We didn't find any evidence that he was making any kind of serious attempt at carrying through with any of it.”

Wapakoneta Superintendent Dean Wittwer said the student was expelled last month, a decision that was amended to a 10-day suspension. He then was sent to the Opportunity for Youth program run by the Auglaize County educational services center for the remainder of the semester, Mr. Wittwer said.

Ron Pepple, educational services superintendent for Auglaize County, said he has spoken to the boy and that the youth regrets what he said.

“The young man who tripped this call, he's not a bad kid. Did he make a mistake? Of course he did,” he said. “I don't think this kid is, by his very nature, a violent kid. ... Not knowing how to deal with his own anger got him in trouble.”

The hot line the boy called is operated by Tri-Star Community Counseling, Inc., a private, nonprofit corporation for Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin counties.

Richard Acton, president and chief executive officer of Tri-Star, said the hot line is staffed 24 hours a day by state-licensed counselors who “have substantial training in crisis intervention.”

He said the counselor who took the boy's call was following agency policy and state law when she contacted police.

“There's a clear duty-to-warn statute that was clarified in the last year-and-a-half,” Mr. Acton said. “When threats are made to person or property, confidentiality is a waived issue at that point.”



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