17-year-old Granite Falls student arrested in online threats case

GRANITE FALLS, Wash. -- After a month of violent threats against students and staff at Granite Falls High School, police have arrested a 17-year-old suspect who is a student at the school.

The online threats continued up until Thursday before police made their arrest. Cops say the student admitted to making the threats even though he didn’t intend on acting out on them.

But we still don’t know why he did it – police reports say the student told investigators it was just a way for him to “express himself.”

“I was shocked that I was on the list,” said a 16-year-old junior at the high school. “I didn’t think I did anything wrong to anyone to become a target.”

The junior was one of nearly 100 students singled out in what police call an online campaign of harassment.

The threats to hurt and kill staff and students were placed on a Latvia-based social media website called Ask.fm.

Police and a State Patrol bomb squad served a search warrant at the student’s home in Granite Falls late Thursday night, but they did not find any materials that could be used to build explosives.

“A 17-year-old male was interviewed, confessed to making those threats,” said Shari Ireton with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

The anonymou, online threats began in mid-December and even the FBI was working to identify a suspect. Once investigators found an IP address, they searched a home on South Indiana Avenue and arrested the student.

“Kids are computer savvy. They understand this way better than we do,” said Linda Hall, superintendent of the Granite Falls School District. “It’s helping the adults get to that education point, too.”

For more than 30 days security was beefed up on campus while authorities scrambled to make an arrest.

This case highlights the influence of social media, and now the district plans to meet with state school officials to learn how to handle threats coming from the Internet.

“They used to be written on the bathroom wall,” said Hall. “Now it comes from this massive social media.”

Students at Granite Falls are left wondering why one of their own would threaten them with acts of violence.

During a hearing on Friday, a judge said there was probable cause that the child committed felony harassment and his bail was set at $250.

Police seized the student’s cell phone, and a judge told the boy he’s not allowed to access social media or anything else on the Internet.