East St. Louis school board president: 'It's a sad day'
A 14-year-old was arrested Thursday in connection with Facebook posts of a threat to shoot students at Cahokia and East St. Louis schools where soft lockdowns were put in place Thursday.
"Through the Cahokia Police Department and the FBI, we were able to track the threat to a device," Cahokia police Chief Dave Landmann said.
Police did not immediately release the identity of the teenager who was taken into custody, but Cahokia police said charges were pending with the state's attorney's office.
The schools were on heightened security and students were allowed to leave during the day.
Cahokia Superintendent Art Ryan said the school resource officer told him the post was made on Wednesday night and the school had heightened security since the start of the school day.
"We're making sure we don't let anyone in unless they've been identified," Ryan said.
Sydney Stigge-Kaufman, spokeswoman for East St. Louis School District 189, confirmed the soft lockdown at all schools in the district.
"The East St. Louis police informed us this morning that someone posted a message on Facebook threatening and targeting East St. Louis and Cahokia," she said. She said police are investigating the threat.
"We have security staff at every campus and they have their protocols for heightened security," she said. "We have been fully cooperating with the police. School safety is our No. 1 priority for students and staff."
Walter Chase, a part-time teacher at East St. Louis High School, said he wasn't allowed inside the school when he arrived around 9:30 a.m. to teach ROTC. Chase was told the soft lockdown was the result of a "threat."
Parents were allowed to pickup their children from school, but no one was permitted inside the school.
East St. Louis District 189 School Board President Kinnis Williams Sr. said he decided to keep his three grandchildren at East St. Louis High School.
"It's a shame. I understand some people want to pick their kids up," he said. "It's foolish that someone would make this kind of threat."
Forsha Rogers came to the high school to check on her two stepchildren, but another family member had already picked them up. "It's sad that our kids have to endure something like this," she said. "We really need to do something about it. It's getting out hand."
Several Facebook users and Williams shared a screenshot of what was said to be the threat. Multiple posts by the same user said Cahokia and East St. Louis schools were in danger and that the person was "coming for" both schools.
Another post, which was published Wednesday night, said the shooting would occur Thursday and referenced racist motives for the shooting.
Reginald Grinston, a junior at Cahokia High School, said he left the school building after hearing about the threat.
“We were scared,” Grinston said. “We heard about the rumors and stuff going on.”
Grinston said he was doing schoolwork when he heard noises.
“I was scared for my life,” he said.
Iyanna Hall, a junior at Cahokia High School, said the threat was being taken seriously.
“A lot of people are calling their parents to come get them because they’re scared, I would be too,” she said.
Kim Harris, clerk of Vivian Adams Early Childhood Center, said the school was on lockdown due to the threat.
Harris said the school began the lockdown at about 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m.
News-Democrat reporter Carolyn P. Smith and photographer Steve Nagy contributed information for this article.
Kaley Johnson: 618-239-2526, @KaleyJohnson6