Authorities: Twin Peaks Middle School student suspected of threatening to shoot 23 students, teacher

POWAY, Calif. - A student at Twin Peaks Middle School in Poway is in custody, suspected of threatening a mass shooting at the school.

According to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, on Saturday morning, deputies from the Poway sheriff’s station learned about an email threat that had been sent to an administrator at Twin Peaks Middle School the night before.

"The threat indicated that on Monday, Feb. 11, 23 students and a Twin Peaks Middle School teacher would be shot," said sheriff's Capt. Bill Donahue, who is with the Poway sheriff's substation.

Surrounded by the superintendent of the Poway Unified School District, along with Poway's mayor and the head of the school board, Donahue said the person who sent the email talked about having the firepower to carry out a devastating attack. 

"The email made reference to 3,000 rounds of ammunition as well as numerous firearms," he said.

Donahue said the sheriff's department immediately began working with the Poway Unified School District and they called in their so-called CATCH team that specializes in cyber crime. 

He said within hours detectives had a suspect, a 12-year-old student who is a 7th grader at Twin Peaks Middle School.

A search warrant executed at the student's home on Saturday afternoon turned up a disturbing discovery. 

"Several computers, along with numerous rifles and handguns were seized from the residence," Donahue said.

Donahue said the student's parents were shocked at the allegations against their son. He said the guns were locked up and that the student did not have access to a key. 

"A total of five rifles, three shotguns and three handguns were taken," he said.

When asked about the teacher who was threatened, Poway Unified School District Superintendent John Collins said, "In our conversations, she has no reason to understand why this has happened."

The teacher's identity has not been released. Collins said none of the 23 students threatened were named in the email.

The student suspected of making the threats was then taken into custody and was admitted to a local hospital for treatment and evaluation.

The sheriff's department said there is no evidence to suggest anyone else was involved in making the threats and it is believed to be an isolated incident.

This case will be submitted to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office for review and evaluation. Making a terrorist threat is a felony in the State of California.

Officials with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and the Poway Unified School District said they take all threats to school safety seriously and will continue to thoroughly investigate all such threats.

An email sent to parents Sunday morning from Principal Kelly Burke read in part: 

"As you can imagine, this incident is likely to draw considerable media attention, possibly even at the national level. Please take the time to discuss this situation with your children today, to ensure their comfort and safety.  At school, we will have counselors on hand to address the needs of any students who may feel vulnerable. I ask for your patience and understanding as we manage this situation and trust that we remain committed to keeping the safety of our children our highest priority." 

READ: Full email sent to parents (PDF)

The email also said that classes are scheduled to resume on Monday, including 6th grade camp.

Sheriff's officials said students who hear threats of violence or potential violence should contact a school resource officer or call the Crime Stoppers Students Speaking Out Tip Line at (888) 580-8477, or the sheriff's department at (858) 565-5200.
 

Twin Peaks Middle School parents react

Parents from Twin Peaks Middle School said they are thankful that the school, the district and law enforcement acted so quickly.

11-year-old Eli Butler, a student at Twin Peaks Middle School, told 10News he still cannot believe that this kind of threat was made against his school in a community he has grown up in.

"When I first heard of it, I was just kind of, 'Whoa,'" he said. "Poway is such a small place that I never thought someone would even try to do something like that in this town because this is the safest town I've ever been to."

Eli's mother Sabrina Butler credits the school's quick actions and says what has transpired over the past 24 hours shows how prepared this community really is.

"One thing I can say about Poway, Poway Unified, the school district… we get ready," she said. "When things happen, we respond, work together. After this will be the next showing of how this community bonds together in the midst of something like this."

Her husband Sam said that when he received notification Sunday morning through an email and phone call, he was relieved that the student who is suspected of making the threat is now getting help. 

"The fact that the school and administration shut it down so quickly and found the person is a testament to how well they work together," he told 10News. 

Other parents were weighing in on social media sites about whether they will have their children in class on Monday.  

A parent named Mary posted on Facebook, "God help us. My child goes to this school and will not be at school tomorrow. I am sick over this." 
 
Another parent named Steve wrote, "BTW my son will be at school tomorrow. It will be the safest place on earth."
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