School authorities, law enforcement find threats to be unfounded

Maricopa High School

The Maricopa Unified School District took precautionary measures Monday in response to rumors of guns on campus at both Maricopa High School and Desert Wind Middle School. Those threats have proven to be unfounded.

A second, unrelated threat at Desert Wind originated last Friday but has since been refuted.

Mishell Terry, the MUSD Coordinator of Communications & Social Media, explained the sequence of events.

“Over the weekend, Desert Wind Middle School administration received information that two students mentioned bringing a gun to school on Monday,” Terry said. “We immediately notified Maricopa Police Department and those tips were investigated. These were two separate incidents/reports. Communication was shared with parents Sunday evening. Late last night/early this morning, a tip was shared through the anonymous tip line regarding a possible gun threat at Maricopa High School.

“This afternoon, we received another report that a Desert Wind Middle School student who is not on campus today mentioned bringing a gun to school. This is unrelated to other tips/investigations. We are currently investigating that tip.”

According to the Maricopa Police Department watch commander’s log, on Friday, Dec. 3, Desert Wind received two separate threats of a school shooting for today. On Saturday, the school received additional information regarding the same threats, but no police report was filed.

Police determined the two threats were actually the same and were made more than three weeks prior by a student who suffers from behavioral and mental health issues.

The student’s family was contacted, according to the watch commander’s log, and it was determined the student does not have means to follow-through with the threat (based upon solely weapons within his household) as all weapons to include guns and knives are currently out of the residence.

In response to the threat, MHS and the schools ramped up security measures including limiting points of entry to the school and searching all backpacks, purses and bags entering the school. The school did not go into lockdown procedures, according to a letter sent to parents by MHS Principal Deana McNamee. The letter also indicated there would be an additional law enforcement presence in the area throughout the day.

Terry said threats like these are more common following an incident such as the one last week in Oxford, Mich. In which four students were killed and seven wounded by a gunman on campus.

“Sadly, in the aftermath of a national school tragedy, reports of this nature often increase,” Terry said. “The Maricopa Unified School District and Maricopa Police Department take all threats seriously, and each tip is thoroughly investigated.”

Desert Wind Principal Carlos Alvarez also sent a communication to parents advising them of the situation and letting them know school would remain in session.

In their letters, McNamee and Alvarez encouraged parents to talk with their children about the consequences of making statements of a threatening or dangerous nature at any time, stressing that threats against a school, even when made in a joking manner, can result in serious district and criminal consequences.