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Posted: 10/31/07

Students face felony charges
for fake bomb threat

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Three Romeo High School students who allegedly called in a fake bomb threat last week Thursday afternoon will face felony charges, say county officials.
       Captain John Roberts of the Macomb County Sheriff's Office said the students, ages 15, 16 and 16, had a bond hearing on Saturday in juvenille court in Mt. Clemens. Two of the students' bonds are set at $75,000, while the third is $50,000. Each student faces felony charges, punishable of up to four years in prison.
       "The law doesn't differentiate with this kind of threat, though the penalty may change because of their ages," Roberts said. "We take these threats seriously, and are going to investigate any occurrence and have the persons responsible prosecuted to the fullest extent."
       According to Romeo Police Chief Vanderlinden, on Thursday, Oct. 25, the teenagers called Romeo Police Department three times on a pre-paid cell phone around 2:50 p.m., and on the third they said there was a bomb at the high school.
       The department was able to identify the subscriber of the phone and give it to the Macomb County Sheriffs Office, and within minutes officers and detectives were able to find the teenagers. Two of the students were questioned and arrested, while the third was brought in later on that day, Roberts said. Officers alerted the school district that all three suspects were arrested around 6:40 p.m.
       "After we arrested them, we realized we've had prior contact with two of the students," he said, two of whom have criminal records.
       This was the second bomb threat the district received this month, the first being written on a bathroom wall in the Romeo Engineering and Technology Center saying a school would blow up on Oct. 12, the same day as Homecoming.
       "It's disturbing that there have been a lot of events," Roberts said. "But we're still investigating to make sure they are not involved with prior threats."
       Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said the department takes these threats quite seriously, and can typically catch whoever did it within 48 hours.
       "They think it's just a way to get out of school or think it's funny, but we don't think it's insignificant, nothing about it is excusable," he said. "We'll be pushing for the four-year maximum."
       He said the department is just as frustrated as any parent or district employee with these threats. Not only does it cause a lot of grief for those at the school who want to be there and learn, he said, it also cost a tremendous amount of time and resources.
       "We barely have enough to handle the day-to-day business," he said. "People have no idea what it takes for law enforcement to respond, like with dogs or detectives . . . it goes beyond comprehension."
       Romeo Police notified school officials immediately of the threat, afterwhich the school was quickly evacuated. K-9 units were brought in, and after sweeping the school it was declared safe. All activities for that day were canceled, including away volleyball games and concerts. The following day's activities were continued as scheduled.
       According to Michigan School Safety Legislation (MCL380.1131[a][2]), students in grades sixth through 12th shall be expelled for up to 180 school days for a verbal assault, which includes bomb threats.
       Superintendent Joe Beck did not return three phone calls for comment as of deadline Tuesday.


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