Police and school security officers found nothing amiss Wednesday morning after searching the sprawling campus of Rio Rancho High School in response to an online threat of a planned shooting.
Rio Rancho Police Capt. Andrew Rodriguez said the police were made aware of the threat about 8 p.m. Tuesday via social media.
“As a precautionary measure, we sent extra officers to Rio Rancho High School, about 10 of them, as well as stepped security at Cleveland High School and all the other Rio Rancho schools,” he said. “The threat was very specific.”
The threat, posted to the social media app Snapchat, read: “I am going to shoot Humanities building up Rio Rancho High first then Fine Arts School tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.”
Rio Rancho Public Schools Superintendent V. Sue Cleveland sent out a message Tuesday night to all RRPS parents, thanking them, students, staff and community members for forwarding the threatening message. She assured them Rio Rancho police officers and school security officers would be stationed at the school Wednesday.
“Schools across the nation and state are receiving similar threats with the intent to create chaos,” Cleveland wrote. “It is appalling that individuals would capitalize on recent tragedies to incite fear and anxiety among students and parents.”
She said “law enforcement agencies are taking these threats very seriously and can pursue prosecution even when such incidents are intended as pranks.”
Rodriguez said the officers ultimately found “nothing out of the ordinary except the lack of students on campus.”
Not surprisingly, a large number of parents opted to keep their kids home Wednesday morning, said RRPS spokeswoman Bethany Pendergrass.
“We’re hearing a number of concerns from parents. As expected, there’s a lot of anxiety in view of what happened in Florida last week,” she said.
One week ago Wednesday, a 19-year-old former student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County Florida entered the school armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, killing 17 students.
That shooting set off a series of student-led protests in Florida and around the nation, with students demanding that Congress enact stricter gun laws, ban military-style assault weapons and other measures.
On Feb. 16, Cleveland also sent out a letter to RRPS parents letting them know that two firearms and an airsoft weapon were discovered during the search of a student’s vehicle in the parking lot of Cleveland High School.
The search was not conducted because of any threat made. The student was removed from the campus for violating district policy and state law that prohibits bringing a dangerous weapon onto school property.
Earlier this week, the Albuquerque Journal reported to Rio Rancho police that it had received a signed letter to the editor from someone threatening shootings at schools and government buildings in Rio Rancho.
Capt. Ron Vigil of the Rio Rancho Police Department said the department is working with federal agencies on that threat and the one that disrupted classes Wednesday at Rio Rancho High School.
The threat relayed by the Journal was determined to have originated on the East Coast, he said. Investigators made contact with the individual who is believed to have originated it, as well as the person whose name was attached to it and who may be the victim.
A panel discussion on school safety for parents and community members will be held March 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the Rio Rancho Public School Board Room, 500 Laser NE. Panelists will include representatives from RRPS, the Rio Rancho Police Department, Juvenile Probation, the 13th Judicial District Court and local attorneys.