The Hilliard Division of Police has charged a second individual in connection with a fabricated threat against Hilliard Darby High School last week.
According to a Franklin County Municipal Court complaint, Hilliard resident Helena M. Eagle, 18, was charged Feb. 26 with obstructing justice, a third-degree felony. She was summoned to appear at 9 a.m. March 12 in municipal court.
The complaint alleges that Eagle did “hinder the apprehension, prosecution, of another by communicating false information” and that she “did lie to law enforcement about seeing a threat to Darby High School on Snapchat, which helped corroborate (a story that) caused panic and alarm to Hilliard Darby High School."
Per the Ohio Revised Code, the offense has a maximum penalty of up to 36 months in prison and a $10,000 fine, Hilliard police spokeswoman Andrea Litchfield said.
Eagle is a 2017 Darby graduate, said Stacie Raterman, a spokeswoman for Hilliard City Schools.
On Feb. 26, officers arrested Andrew Wiggins, a 16-year-old Darby student, on second-degree felony charges of inducing panic for fabricating and spreading the false social-media threat.
Wiggins and Eagle are acquaintances, Litchfield said.
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, she 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.
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
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.”
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.