15-year-old charged in O'Fallon school threat
A former student at O'Fallon Township High School is facing four felony charges of making threats at the J Emmett Hinchcliffe Sr. Elementary School earlier this week.
The 15-year-old was not named but is in custody and facing one count each of making a terrorist threat, attempt of making a terrorist threat, disorderly conduct and criminal defacement of property. Each of the charges is a felony; making a terrorist threat is a Class X felony.
"This is a serious, serious threat," Brendan Kelly, the St. Clair County state's attorney, said at a news conference Wednesday.
The teen is accused of writing graffiti on the back of the school building, including a threatening message and "explicit, vulgar drawings," Carrie Hruby, the superintendent of O'Fallon Community Consolidated School District 90, said previously.
"We cannot ignore any type of threat," Kelly said, citing another threat at a school in Cahokia. "This type of conduct is a crime."
The teen is an O'Fallon resident, police and school officials said, and at one time attended O'Fallon Township High School, but was not a student there Monday.
The takeaway message is that there is "zero tolerance" for making threats on schools, police Chief Eric Van Hook said.
"Our investigators dropped everything for this case," Van Hook said, with work leading to the teen's confession and subsequent charges.
He said the department's long relationship with the school district played a crucial role in the investigation.
"You've got to trust us on this," he said police told district officials early in the investigation and seeking assistance. "And they do."
Hruby said about 170 students were absent Monday, the day the threat was found, and students were still being kept at home on Wednesday. Hinchcliffe has about 390 students from prekindergarten through fifth grade; O'Fallon Community Consolidated School District 90 has seven schools, going through eighth grade.
Uniformed officers have been at the district's schools all week both for reassurance and to answer questions from parents. The district has had two intruder drills this year; the last was in January.
School threats not limited to St. Clair County
Okawville police, in Washington County, are also investigating a threat against a school with the help of the FBI, according to a news release from the Okawville police Chief Stephen D. Millikin.
Hruby said the impact on students, who did not see the graffiti, was immediate.
"Sheer terror and panic in our community," she said. "Almost half the students were picked up by parents" that day and were allowed excused absences.
Hruby said the absences due to the threat had continued into Wednesday, even knowing that a suspect was in custody.