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Boy, 13, arrested in threats that shut 5 schools in Washington state

September 11, 2013|By Maria L. La Ganga

SEATTLE – Officials in the southern Washington city of Battle Ground closed five schools Wednesday as a precautionary measure after a 13-year-old boy threatened to blow up his middle school and shoot a teacher, a police spokesman said.

The written threats were made Tuesday, said Lt. Roy Butler, and the schools were closed so police could do a thorough search. The eighth-grader was arrested Wednesday and could be charged with felony harassment.

"He was threatening to shoot up the school, blow up the school, shoot a teacher," Butler said. "The investigation is ongoing. It was not a joke, that’s for sure…. [But] our investigation said he did not have the means to carry out the threats made."

The boy, who lives in an unincorporated area near Battle Ground, has been released to his parents, who are cooperating with the investigation, authorities said. He attends Chief Umtuch Middle School, the focus of the threats.

"A series of threats against students and staff at Chief Umtuch Middle School prompted the closure of five Battle Ground schools," according to a letter to parents on the Battle Ground School District website Wednesday afternoon. "We truly believe our schools are safe and look forward to seeing our students back in school tomorrow."

District officials said in the letter that the decision to close the schools, which are in close proximity and attended by nearly 4,000 students, "was an extremely difficult one." But they also said that it was "the right thing to do" and they would make the same decision again.

Counselors and administrative staff on the affected campuses will be available Thursday to help assuage students’ anxiety, and the district "will make every effort to connect school counseling services to all students in need."

Butler said officers seized the boy’s computer, which will be examined further.

"There’s no evidence to show that there were any other suspects involved," said Butler, adding that he was not aware of any previous threats made against schools in Battle Ground, which is about 25 miles northeast of Portland, Ore.

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Twitter: @marialaganga

maria.laganga@latimes.com

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