Hilliard Division of Police officers on Feb. 26 arrested Andrew Wiggins, a 16-year-old Hilliard Darby High School student, on second-degree felony charges of inducing panic for fabricating and spreading a false social-media threat last week.
Charges also are expected to be filed Thursday, March 1, against an 18-year-old female who is acquainted with Wiggins but not a current student at Darby, according to police spokeswoman Andrea Litchfield.
Litchfield said investigators determined Wiggins on Feb. 23 caused a panic when he started telling others he saw a threat against Darby posted on the Snapchat social-media platform.
Wiggins eventually told investigators the post never existed, Litchfield said.
“Police were never able to find the original screenshot of the alleged threat,” she said.
A Hilliard police announcement on Facebook and Twitter on Feb. 26 said an “extensive investigation” found the threat “to have no credibility” because Wiggins fabricated it, posted about it and forwarded it to other students.
“It spread from there (via social media) and we soon had thousands of worried students and parents,” Litchfield said.
Charges of inducing panic typically are a misdemeanor but because this threat involved in a public school, the charge is a felony, she said.
Whether the second student would be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor has yet to be determined, she said.
The incident is an example of how social media can spread unsubstantiated information, Litchfield said.
She said parents and residents should call police rather that share threatening messages via social media “and allow police to decide” if the threat is real.
Hilliard police social-media accounts emphasized the police division and school district have a “zero-tolerance stance ... regarding not only threats, but making up or forwarding rumors.”
Here's another UPDATE regarding the threat on social media over the weekend.pic.twitter.com/YGnM1dD4mY— Hilliard Ohio Police (@Hilliard_Police)February 26, 2018
Hilliard City Schools spokeswoman Stacie Raterman said more than 200 Darby students were absent Feb. 26. The average number of daily absences during this flu season is about 75, she said.
Social-media post allegedly threatens Hilliard Darby High School
Several Hilliard Darby High School students and parents told authorities Feb. 23 they saw a social-media post making a threat against Darby, but authorities said they do not believe the threat is credible.
The post was made on the Snapchat social-media platform, according to a "safety message" from Hilliard Division of Police and the Hilliard City Schools posted Feb. 24 on hilliardschools.org.
The threat allegedly was about the next school week, said Andrea Litchfield, a spokeswoman for Hilliard police.
The joint statement from Hilliard police and the school district said based upon the investigation thus far, "there is no credibility to this reported threat," but they still were searching for the user who posted it.
Hilliard police have asked anyone with information on the original post – including a screenshot – or its author's identity to call 614-876-7321.
"Detectives have been actively investigating the threat since early (Friday) evening," Litchfield said.
She said police received “multiple reports” of the post.
There is no such thing as a joke when it comes to school threats. If you have info on the Hilliard Darby threat poster's identity, or a screenshot of the original post, let us know.#SeeSomethingSaySomethingpic.twitter.com/GYPSYRRFHt— Hilliard Ohio Police (@Hilliard_Police)February 24, 2018
Stacie Raterman, a spokeswoman for the school district, said district leaders are "cooperating with (police) and asking anyone with information to contact police.”
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