By JOSH NEWTON
Three Tahlequah High School students have been arrested and are expected to face felony charges in connection to Monday evening’s bomb threat at the school.
School Resource Officer Bryan Swim said officers received “credible information” Tuesday morning that led to interviews and two arrests later that day, along with a third arrest Wednesday morning. Neither police nor school officials would release the names of the three students, nor would they provide ages of the teenagers.
Tahlequah Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Presley said law enforcement officials are “handling the situation.”
“District officials are going to take care of matters related to the students’ conduct,” said Presley, who also confirmed the students are not being allowed on TPS property. “I would like to reassure the public that at no time were students or staff in danger.”
The three teens appeared before Special Judge Sandy Crosslin after their arrests, and a recommendation was made to hold them in a detention center. The Office of Juvenile Affairs was involved in the process, but authorities were unable to find available detention-center beds in Oklahoma, so the suspects were released to their parents, pending their next court appearance.
Swim said a note was left at the school Monday that included a “generalized threat directed toward the high school.”
The note was discovered after school let out at 3:10 p.m., and all students and staff remaining on campus were immediately evacuated.
“After everyone was accounted for, we made arrangements for them to get home,” said Swim.
Swim said several other agencies were dispatched to the site to help set up perimeters, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Tahlequah Police Department; Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office; Tahlequah City Hospital EMS; Tahlequah Fire Department; the Oklahoma Highway Patrol; the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service; Tahlequah-Cherokee County Emergency Management; and investigators with the District 27 District Attorney’s Office.
After the campus was evacuated, no one was allowed back inside until the OHP brought in two canines to help sweep the site. Swim said the canines and their handlers were assisted in the sweep by THS administrators.
Swim praised the cooperation and response of local agencies.
“Communication and response worked really well among the agencies,” said Swim. “With the help of all of the responding agencies, we were able to set up a perimeter around the school and shut down the nearby roads, then set up a command post in the north parking lot.”
Swim said the OHP’s canines, which are trained to detect explosives, checked every area of the THS campus – a process that took more than two hours. At about 9:30 p.m. Monday, the scene was cleared and authorities announced they had discovered no explosive device inside the facility.
Authorities then began trying to determine who left the threatening note at the school. Police on Wednesday confirmed surveillanc
e footage from cameras at the school were instrumental in the probe.
Tahlequah Police Department Public Information Officer Brad Robertson said all of the TPS school resource officers were involved in the response and investigation into the threat.
“The school resource officers’ knowledge of their school sites is a critical asset to our department,” said Robertson. “We appreciate the work they do for the schools and our department.”
Swim said he will complete the investigation report and submit it to the District Attorney’s Office, where prosecutors will make the final decision on what charges to file against the three suspects.