PONTIAC, Mich. – The Oakland County sheriff issued a stern warning Thursday after dozens of school threats were made in the wake of Tuesday’s shooting at Oxford High School.
“If you’re making threats, we’re going to find you,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. “It is ridiculous you’re inflaming the fears and passion of parents, teachers and the community in the midst of a real tragedy.”
At this point, Oakland County officials are aware of more than 60 schools in the area that have been closed because of threatening behavior. He said tracking down so many threats is overrunning the department’s resources, but every threat will be investigated.
He estimates that there have been “hundreds” of threats reported, though none so far have turned out to be credible, according to authorities.
“I don’t know what is in people’s minds to think after a real tragedy, it makes sense to make threats,” Bouchard said.
Bouchard said these copycat threats usually fall under one of two categories: people who think fake threats are funny or those who think it’s a way to get out of school.
“Regardless of the reason for the threat -- (to try to be) funny, or any other reasons, it will be investigated and we will seek criminal causes,” Bouchard said.
Due to the number of threats coming in right now, Bouchard has asked the FBI and Secret Service to help with the investigations. Both have agreed to help the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
Tim Waters, the special agent in charge for the FBI in Michigan, said over his more than 21 years working in the community, this week has been the most challenging.
“There’s nothing more horrific than our children being at risk they way they were on Tuesday,” Waters said.
The FBI has about 40 people working around the clock at the Detroit command post to track down school threats, Waters said.
“A false threat of terrorism is a felony,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said. “It’s a 20-year felony, and we will charge it and we will hold people accountable.”
Those threats could also lead to a misdemeanor charge of malicious use of a telecommunications device, McDonald said.
Reports of threats this week have ranged from a 12-year-old getting off the bus mentioning shooting up a school, to the recirculation of old threats, to screenshots of Snapchats from other states, according to Bouchard.
He said police are fully anticipating schools will reopen Monday, but it’s up to each individual district to make that decision.
“Ultimately, what happens (with) whether they open and how they open is a school district and a school building choice,” Bouchard said. “We’re just doing everything we can to reassure them that we’re going to help them if they want to be there in-person, to do it safely.”
Bouchard and Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter also expressed the importance of seeking out mental health resources for anyone who needs them.