Edmonds police have arrested two high-school students on investigation of malicious harassment for online threats to kill black classmates. Both students were expelled from Edmonds-Woodway High School.
Two Edmonds-Woodway High School students were expelled last week and then arrested Tuesday for allegedly making racist threats to kill two black classmates, as well as threatening to leave “dead bodies” all over their school, according to police.
The two boys, ages 15 and 16, told police they were “just trying to be funny” when they posted the racially charged comments threatening black students at their school in an online-chat room, according to a news release from Edmonds police.
In posts that date to August, they also referenced lynchings and posted descriptions of how they intended to kill one of their targets, it says.
The students were booked into the Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Everett on investigation of malicious harassment, the state’s hate-crime statute.
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The boys, who are both white, ran the chat room on Facebook and directed threats toward two specific classmates, Sgt. Shane Hawley said of the ongoing police investigation.
The references to lynching “are super inflammatory to the African-American community based on history,” Hawley said, alluding to hangings of blacks carried out by the Ku Klux Klan. “We had two victims essentially mentioned by name, and direct threats were made toward those two students.”
Additionally, the suspects made threats against the student body as a whole, saying they would get the school into a lockdown, garner media attention for themselves and leave “dead bodies all over the school,” Hawley said.
“Considering all the events going on and what seems to be a new school shooting somewhere in the country every week, we want to get the message out that it isn’t funny,” he said of the threats of a mass shooting. “If it rises to the level of criminal activity, we’re going to make the charge.”
While there is no indication so far that the suspects had access to weapons, Hawley said police take these kinds of threats “at face value.”
He pointed out that on Tuesday alone, Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish was evacuated due to a bomb threat, and the Los Angeles Police Department shut down an entire school district due to an emailed threat of violence.
“Our assumption is it’s going to be a legitimate threat and … if you make those kinds of threats, we’re going to assume you’re going to carry them out,” Hawley said.
The online threats by the two Edmonds-Woodway students came to the attention of school officials when another student reported them on Dec. 7, according to the police news release. The school notified one of the intended victims, then called police.
During a weeklong investigation, police gathered additional evidence and interviewed both suspects:
“They admitted to making the comments, however, denied any intention of carrying out the threats and claimed they were just trying to be funny,” the news release says.
Detective Sgt. Michael Richardson is quoted in the release as saying: “The statements made were shocking and appalling. Threats of this nature cannot be tolerated in today’s society.”
Last week, prosecutors in Whatcom County charged 19-year-old Tysen Campbell with malicious harassment for a lynching comment posted on an anonymous message board that was allegedly aimed at the black student-body president of Western Washington University.
According to state law, malicious harassment is an attack motivated by a perception of someone’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability, and results in physical injury, property damage or threats that would place a reasonable person in fear of harm.