1.11 SJ arrest

A photo from the arrested teen’s Instagram page.

Ex-student targets SJ principals in post that led to swift arrest

A 14-year-old former student who threatened on social media to shoot up South Jones High School this spring is facing serious charges after being taken into custody by the Jones County Sheriff’s Department on Saturday evening. 

The ex-student — who was removed from the school in October for undisclosed reasons and was not identified because of his age — posted the warning on Instagram and was in custody in less than two hours, school and sheriff’s department officials said at a press conference on Monday morning. 

“This was a total team effort,” Jones County School District Deputy Superintendent B.R. Jones said, thanking parents, students, school and law enforcement officials whose communication and efforts limited the incident to a threat instead of a deadly incident. 

“Any threat like this will be taken seriously due to the climate today,” Investigator J.D. Carter. 

The teen was charged with making terroristic threats and was in the Jones County Juvenile Detention Center awaiting a hearing before Youth Court Judge Wayne Thompson. Youth court proceedings and punishment are not made public. 

“We’re not going to put up with anything like this,” Sheriff Joe Berlin said. “Anyone who makes threats like this will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” 

Berlin was contacted by Superintendent Tommy Parker early Saturday evening about the threat, and Berlin said he forwarded the message to Carter. 

“In an hour and 45 minutes, the 14-year-old male was in custody,” Berlin said. 

The threat was deemed credible by officials and the former student had a photo of a firearm on his Instagram page. The message warned that anyone who is on campus on May 25 “shall be dead” and there was a specific warning to SJ principals, saying that they are “gonna be dead on May 25th, 2022.” 

That date coincides with the end of the school year. 

“Any threat about shooting up a school is credible to us,” Berlin said. 

SJ School Resource Officer Davy Lyons helped Carter identify the student and led him to the ex-student’s Ellisville residence, where he was taken into custody. 

Parents and students quickly reported the message to get the investigation going, Jones pointed out, and school and law enforcement officials helped “bring it to a conclusion very, very soon.” 

The school district and sheriff’s department are “fortunate to have a positive relationship,” Jones said, and that was key in handling this matter. “The safety of our students and faculty is our No. 1 priority. I appreciate the partnership we have with the Jones County Sheriff’s Department and our parents.” 

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