Police say the Salmon Arm Secondary student who tweeted about shooting students now poses no threat to others.
“There is no danger to students at this juncture,” says Staff Sgt. Scott West of the Salmon Arm RCMP. “We have taken steps to see there are no firearms readily accessible to this individual.”
When the student was arrested the morning of Thursday, June 14 as he arrived at school, he had no weapons in his possession, West said. And youth probation services is now involved and will enforce conditions imposed by the courts.
“We have a very engaging youth probation officer and they supervise any case along these lines. They’ve been fully briefed, even before his release. They will see to it that this particular individual gets the services they require to help them along in life.”
West noted that the boys’ family has been very supportive of the process.
“As a result of this particular incident there is no concern for safety, and we’re monitoring, as is the bail supervisor, very closely.”
However, Wednesday night was a different story.
About midnight, the U.S.-based Tactical Institute, staffed by combat-wounded veterans who monitor social media around the clock to watch for threats, contacted its founder and president Bob Dowling. Dowling’s credentials include serving as a U.S. government special agent for NCIS, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and DARPA, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency with the Department of Defense.
His staff notified him of a Twitter threat generated in Kelowna, which they categorized as Code Red, their highest level of threat.
“It means you can’t ignore this, probably jump on this right away, it’s an imminent threat – it doesn’t get higher than this,” he told the Observer.
Dowling says the Tactical Insititute called Kelowna RCMP around midnight or 1 a.m. and were on the phone with them as well as police in Vancouver for a couple of hours. Kelowna passed the information along to Salmon Arm.
“Do we always believe everything on the Internet? No, but when you go back on the Internet and see what’s he’s doing. The tone and tenor right from the start… He has a real-time ominous persistent tone,” Dowling says.
Dowling mentions that Fridays tend to be a bad day for school shootings.
The Salmon Arm student’s tweets, beginning in February, refer to depression, suicide, self-loathing, rage and hating everyone. The series posted on June 13 speaks specifically about shooting students.
One tweet states: “See I’m going to make a list. A big one. Of people I hate and why. Names will be abbreviated for privacy reasons as I really don’t want to get charged. Look forward to it. Dropping it tomorrow.”
A graphic tweet describes shooting someone in the head.
Another states: “I mean everyone is always asking why do kids shoot up schools. Like bitch it’s pretty fucking simple. Not that any one out their would understand. But I suppose their happy speculating about shit they’ll never know.”
And another refers to the school shooting in 1999 in Columbine, Colorado. “When I think about it. Man the Columbine shooters kill count was only 14? Like really? You had automatic and a shotgun. 14 is all you could pull off? Amateurs.”
Dowling explains that the persistent thread of threats, combined with the boy being “a lone wolf, with nobody on his Twitter account,” prompted his team to act quickly.
He says his Tactical Institute has prevented 22 planned public school shootings. Two of those were in Canada: one in Edmonton in September last year and one in Calgary in November 2017.
Regarding advice for parents, Dowling recommends keeping track of their children’s online presence.
“They really need to monitor what kids are doing online… Joking about shooting up schools. Even if it was a joke, it’s not funny. This one, we thought was a real threat. This one, we’re seeing as a real-time threat.”