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Officials: False alarm a good test of threat response

By Travis DeNeal
Posted on 3/9/2018, 1:03 PM

HARRISBURG -- It was a false alarm, but officials say it was a good test of Harrisburg schools' response to a potential threat.

On Wednesday, those on Harrisburg Unit 3's group telephone message list got a bit of a surprise. A 6 a.m. call from Superintendent Mike Gauch wasn't announcing a surprise snow day.

Gauch said on the message a post on social media that at first glance appeared to be from a former student threatened one of the schools.

"We immediately went into action in response," Gauch said.

Some quick police work determined that a former Harrisburg student was not involved, nor was any Harrisburg school threatened, but it was a legitimate threat in another location.

Harrisburg Police Chief David Morris said Gauch contacted him upon learning of the threat on Tuesday.

"I happened to be off work at the time, but I came in and we immediately began investigating this," Morris said. "I contacted the young man who was believed to have made the post. He came in right away and was completely cooperative."

Morris said that soon after notifying the FBI of the potential threat, he and Gauch learned it was a different student with the same name elsewhere.

"The FBI was extremely quick. They have access to a lot more resources," Morris said.

Gauch also said the speed of the FBI response was noteworthy.

"By the time they could get back to us, they already had someone in custody," Gauch said.

Morris said information he was given indicated the threat was intended for a school in Porter County, Ind.

This was the second time in two weeks school officials and police reacted to a possible threat.

The first incident was quickly determined not to be an actual threat, though the FBI was contacted as part of the school system's updated security protocol, Gauch said.

He said in the wake of recent fatal school shootings, school districts must take every precaution for the safety of students and staff.

"You can't be too careful any more," Gauch said.