Watertown Police arrested a 16-year-old Watertown boy for allegedly making threats toward a school on Friday, May 31 after the teen sent a Snapchat message that was received by students at Watertown High School and Watertown Middle School.
Watertown Police received word of the threat from Watertown Public School officials Friday morning, said Watertown Police Lt. James O’Connor. The message was sent via the Snapchat social media app, and contained a list of emojis, O’Connor said.
“From what police could tell, the Snapchat message went to over 100 students at Watertown Middle School and Watertown High School,” O’Connor said. “It contained emojis of a picture of a school, a bomb, an explosion, a gun and an emoji of someone running.”
The message went out at about 2 a.m. on Friday morning, and many students saw it that morning, O’Connor said. One of the students who saw the message alerted administrators at the high school, said Watertown Superintendent Dede Galdston.
Police were able to identify a suspect and located him and his mother, O’Connor said.
“Police made sure they were safe and brought them to the Police Station for further investigation,” O’Connor said. “As a result, it was determined a Watertown juvenile did communicate that message on his Snapchat using a mobile device.”
The 16-year-old Watertown boy (whose name is not being released because he is a juvenile) was arrested Friday on the charge of communicating a terroristic threat, O’Connor said. He appeared in juvenile court in Waltham on Friday.
“This is a very serious charge,” O’Connor said. “The incident caused disruption to the school and worries among staff and students. We recognize that it was a very serious incident and are very glad we were able to come to a very quick resolution.”
Under Massachusetts General Law, the charge is punishable by up to 20 years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000.
O’Connor said he could not go into details about the investigation, but said after searching the suspect’s home investigators did not believe there was a threat to safety.
“There was nothing in the home related to (the content of) that Snapchat post,” O’Connor said. “We don’t know what his motive was. His family was very cooperative and saw what the concern was.”
He added that Police believe the incident was an isolated one.
“There is no continuing threat to the school or community,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said the suspect is currently not enrolled at Watertown High School. Galdston confirmed the teen is not a current student, but said he had previously attended WHS.
O’Connor thanked the student who reported the potential threat.
“We commend the student for bringing the information forward,” O’Connor said. “It was the responsible and honorable thing to do.”
Watertown High School remained open Friday. Galdston said that safety is the foremost concern for school officials, but they confident there was no safety risk.
“The decision was ultimately that of the High School administration who worked it through with Police,” Galdston said. “They assessed the threat itself and it was not specific to the school and there was no indication it was for Friday.”
She added that all sorts of things are sent over social media.
“Kids post things on social media and it is a matter of sorting through them to see if they are serious or not,” Galdston said.
Monday morning, there was a larger that normal police presence at Watertown High School and Watertown Middle School. Galston said that was done to ease people’s concerns following the threat.