Teens arrested after NJ schools get threats in wake of shooting
A 14-year-old boy and an 18-year-old man have been charged with making threats against high schools in the state.
The school districts of Franklin in Somerset County and Vorheers were among several that dealt with similar threats and hoaxes after 17 students and teachers were fatally shot in a rampage at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday.
Jacob Finkelstein, 18, of Voorhees, has been charged with threatening to terrorize students and staff at Eastern Regional High School after students reported hearing him say during the school day that he was going to “shoot up the school.”
Police, however, found no weapons at his home. Finkelstein was still charged with second-degree false public alarm and third-degree terroristic threats. He was being held Friday at Camden County jail.
In Franklin, a township teenager was charged with third-degree terroristic threats and was suspended from school. He was released to his parents.
Elsewhere in the state, Parsippany-Troy Hills police issued an alert Friday afternoon about a lockdown at Brooklawn School after a student found a bullet in a hallway.
Police searched the building and dismissed students in a "controlled manner," according to police. Authorities did not know where the bullet came from, but suggested that it was brought into the school, not fired.
An investigation continued by Nutley police into an online threat Thursday night that caused classes to be cancelled on Friday.
"The video under investigation did not contain a direct threat to any of our schools. The individual that has been identified in this incident is cooperating with our investigation," police wrote on the department's Facebook page.
In Middlesex County, no arrests have been made in Monroe, where a social media threat was deemed not to be credible, according to superintendent Dr. Michael Kozak.
A parent with children in the district said schools were placed on half-day schedules and attendance seemed lighter than normal.
Despite police assurances there was no credible threat to Jackson public schools attendance was down on Friday.
"Attendance on the Friday before a three-day weekend during flu season would typically be lower than average, but we did also see an increase in absenteeism from Jackson Memorial High School students who stayed home today due to the rumored threats,'' District Coordinator of Communications Allison Erwin said.
False threats that result in heavy police responses could be treated as swatting incidents under the law, Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Charles Webster said.
Swatting is the practice in which an anonymous caller phones in a phony bomb or weapons threat or hostage situation at a school, business or home, requiring response by emergency personnel or SWAT teams.
New Jersey's swatting law provides for five- to 10-year prison sentences and a potential fine of $150,000.
"They could still be charged with causing false public alarm but if an asset is deployed (such as a tactical team) because of a threat and causes some kind of panic, that's when it slides into the occasion of a swatting," Webster said.