The Fishers Police Dept. still is investigating a threat in the form of a letter dropped off at Fall Creek Elementary late afternoon March 19. Though the school district has deemed the threat not credible, FPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Tom Weger said the department’s definition of a credible threat differs from the school’s and FPD is taking the investigation seriously.
“At this point have not been able to determine the level of credibility, and we are treating it as an active investigation,” Weger said.
The threat warned of a shooting to take place at the elementary on March 19. Although the timing for the threat has passed with no issue, officers are providing extra patrols. Investigators are working to identify the person who issued the threat. The threat comes just barely more than a month after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
In light of the threat and other recent events, Chief Mitch Thompson shared information on how the department handles school threats.
“When we get a threat, we treat them all like they’re serious,” Thompson said. “We have a very good relationship with HSE schools. We work the threat as if it’s legitimate until we can prove otherwise. When we can prove otherwise, we deem it not credible.”
Some factors in deeming a threat credible is finding out the reasons behind the threat, if the offender has intent and if he or she has means to commit the act, such as access to guns. Once the suspect has been identified, Thompson said various actions can be taken.
“Anytime we get a threat (from a student), we communicate with the student and we communicate with the family,” he said. “We put a plan in place to ensure the young person is getting the services they need. Oftentimes, when threats aren’t credible, it’s a person who is in some sort of need of services, whether that’s mental health or counseling, things of that nature. So, they understand these types of threats are treated seriously and that you can’t be making those types of threats. It can lead to criminal charges, as well.”
Thompson said the department always remains vigilant. However, when events such as a school shooting take place, students become more aware of their surroundings as well.
“School safety is not a fixed asset, it is a constant living process,” School Resource Officer Lt. Mike Johnson said. “As we learn and gather information and attend trainings or are made aware of new technology, we are always adjusting, preparing and planning so that our schools can be as safe as possible.”
During the National Walk-Out March 14, Fishers Police Dept. added extra officers to the interiors and exteriors of Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers high schools as well as the junior high schools in the district to ensure student safety.
“When you think about HSE schools in general, it’s nearly 22,000 students and 1,500 staff. That’s larger than a lot of cities and towns in the state of Indiana,” Thompson said. “It’s a city within a city. We know that having a safe and secure environment is one of most important aspects of learning, and we are truly committed to making sure that happens every day.”