Alleged Threatener in Custody, Schools’ Lock-In Ends

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – The apprehension of an 18-year-old male suspect whom Lower Pottsgrove police said lives outside the area, and who allegedly sent a threatening message Monday (Oct. 18, 2021) to a Pottsgrove High School student, ended a day-long lock-in of all occupants at the high school and the adjacent Ringing Rocks Elementary School.

As a result of law enforcers’ actions, Pottsgrove School District officials decided Monday evening no further protective measures were necessary. They announced they “no longer have any reason to believe that this person poses a threat,” and canceled potential plans for virtual instruction Tuesday (Oct. 19). Families were notified students would return Tuesday to in-person classes at both buildings.

The conclusion also ended hours of worry by and speculation on the part of parents, who took to social media to discuss the situation, its possible causes, and their concerns.

Behind the incident

Lower Pottsgrove Acting Police Chief William James said high school personnel contacted the township department Monday morning between 9:30 and 10 a.m. to report that one of its students had received a threat. Identities of the suspect – who reportedly has no ties to the district and lives a distance away – and the victim were not disclosed, nor was the nature of the threat itself or what prompted it.

The threat was immediately taken seriously, James said. The district locked students and staffs at both buildings inside for their safety, and no visitors were permitted. Police patrols were sent to stand guard outside the schools; “they were working on it” only minutes after the district’s call was received, he added. Affected parents also were contacted by the district.

For Pottsgrove’s part, it said the “lock-in allowed the high school to continue (its) regular daily activities inside … while the exterior of the building was secured.” The district’s own contracted guard staff and others provided “security at the building entrances,” Superintendent Dr. David Finnerty told parents in the first of two e-mails about the situation.

Township police and others in law enforcement who were involved in trying to find the alleged threatener faced an early problem, according to James. The suspect was not at his known residence, and could not be otherwise reached. Initially, the chief explained, “we had no means” of finding or contacting him until later Monday afternoon.

To prepare for a potentially longer wait, district officials began planning “to send all elementary students home with an iPad,” Finnerty’s first message – delivered by e-mail at around 5 p.m. – noted. The exercise reflected “an abundance of caution,” he added, “in the event we have to move the entire district to a virtual instruction day.”

The district also was poised to close all buildings Tuesday had virtual instruction been required, Finnerty wrote. He pledged “teachers, principals, and district administrators will be available via email for any necessary communications.” The “safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff is at the forefront of our decision-making,” he reminded readers.

In Finnerty’s follow-up message, delivered by e-mail slightly more than an hour later, he described himself as “pleased” to report the threatener had “been located by police and the legal process is under way.”

Precaution, thanks follow good news

As school buses rolled out Tuesday, Finnerty wrote that Lower Pottsgrove police agreed to “be on-site to provide extra support to our high school security team” as a measure of added “assurance to our high school students and staff.”

He also expressed thanks to “all of the individuals who contributed to resolving this situation,” and to parents for their “flexibility, support … patience, and understanding” during the situation.

There is no word, yet, about the circumstances under which the suspect was taken into custody; what charges, if any, he faces; and what next happens with him in “the legal process” to which Finnerty alluded.

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