Updated: Craig Police, school district investigating threat made on high school by two students
Editor’s note: This story has been updated
CRAIG — The Craig Police Department increased its presence at Moffat County High School on Thursday morning after learning two students were allegedly planning a school shooting.
“The police department will continue to investigate, but there is no immediate danger,” said police Captain Bill Leonard.
Both students have been located by police; one is in custody in Craig, and the second is in custody at an undisclosed location out of state.
About 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, Moffat County High School Principal Kyle York received an email from the parents of the out-of-state suspect. The email included an attached letter written by the student describing a shooting he and another student planned to carry out at Moffat County High School on Friday, April 20.
“Mr. York was alerted of this situation through a letter from one of the students, who is currently accounted for out of state,” read a message to parents posted on the school district website about 9:30 a.m. Thursday by Moffat County School District Superintendent Dave Ulrich.
York determined the level of detail and planning warranted immediate notification of Ulrich and School Resource Officer Ryan Fritz, setting into motion the school district’s safety plan.
“It (the letter) was detailed enough that it put it on a very heightened threat that we needed to deal with immediately; then, we worked on it through the night, met early in the morning to make sure that the school, staff and everyone were safe,” York said.
By 7:45 a.m. Thursday the student suspect in Craig had been detained by officers, and the student who was out of state was also in custody.
Ulrich thanked both York and Fritz for their “diligence in pursuing this.” In subsequent communications, he said: “It is important for parents and the community to know that the students suspected have been apprehended (and) school will go on as normal.”
After learning the news, Mike Ennis — a concerned parent, owner of High Country Security and a veteran who served 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corps — decided to create a visible presence of volunteer security around Craig’s schools.
By 11 a.m. Thursday, unarmed employees and volunteers of the company began walking the perimeter at each school. Ennis said local law enforcement officers had asked that they leave. He refused.
“I feel like we are making a statement that our children are not to be messed with. I don’t have anything bad to say about law enforcement, but in the last shooting in Florida, school resource officers ran away,” Ennis said. “We have guys out here now and more coming to walk.”
All Moffat County Schools maintained a heightened level of awareness. About 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Craig Middle School students were briefly told to remain in their classrooms as the principal and assistant principal verified the identity of a person who turned out to be a maintenance worker called to the school to repair the sprinkler system.
“The middle school was not locked down, but teachers did alert the administrators about a guy in the schoolyard. Principal Dave Grabowski immediately identified him as district personnel,” Ulrich said.
A student shaken
With red cheeks and a wavering voice, high school freshman Matt Strong described his day.
“I was upset when I heard about it around 9:30 a.m. in advising. I was shocked. It’s so stressful to think about,” he said, sitting outside at a table as he waited for his bus to arrive and take him home.
Matt had communicated with his mother via text message. He also received a text from his younger sister, who attends CMS.
“She was scared. I called her back at lunchtime, around noon,” he said.
The family had a lot to process Thursday evening, and Matt wasn’t sure if he’d be attending school Friday.
“School shootings are unexpected and such a travesty. It doesn’t happen often, but it is absolutely horrible,” Matt said before collecting his iPad, backpack and boarding the bus for home.
Getting back to normal
The plot against the school had been planned for Friday, the 19th anniversary of the April 20, 1999, massacre at Columbine High School in Jefferson County.
“Given the situation, the Craig Police Department has agreed to an enhanced presence in our schools, including MCHS today and tomorrow,” Ulrich said. “We appreciate the partnership and cooperation by Craig Police Department in providing an increased presence in our high school and throughout the district, as we assure parents that student safety is our highest priority.”
Parents and the community are asking hard questions, and many of those questions will go unanswered as the investigation unfolds.
“There are no immediate plans for the suspected students to return to school. It becomes a police matter, so what’s next is determined by what the police do now,” York said.
Federal law prevents school district staff from violating student privacy, therefore they are unable to disclose additional information. While the investigation is active and ongoing, the Craig Police Department will not share the names or ages of the suspects or specifics of the plot. An arrest affidavit was not available Thursday, and the District Attorney’s office had no comment when asked Thursday.
“Tomorrow, our school is going to run, business as usual,” York said. He also said students did not plan a day of action, walkouts or other events to commemorate the Columbine High School shootings. Instead, they plan a “Day without Hate,” or, in this case, several days — from April 23 to 26.
“I give kudos to our kids and our parents in how vigilant they have been and how open giving us information about potential safety issues. It says a lot about the culture of our school,” York said. “We are completely committed to the safety and welfare of our kids. That’s our highest priority.”
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
Eleanor C. Hasenbeck contributed to this story.