Christopher Rosacker
crosacker@theunion.com

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December 21, 2012
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Threat prompts sheriffs presence at Grass Valley high school

An overheard conversation among peers prompted a Nevada Union High School student to report a perceived “threat” to the campus, resulting in a heightened awareness and law enforcement presence there Friday, one week after 26 people were killed in a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

One student reportedly overheard another talking after school Thursday about a rumored threat alleged to take place Friday, said Capt. Shannan Moon with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

That student reported the overheard conversation and the school’s administration contacted the sheriff’s office Thursday, according to NU Principal Mike Blake.

“We think maybe the person caught part of a conversation, but not the whole context,” Blake told The Union Friday. “It sounds like that game ‘telephone.’”

Blake suggested that the overheard conversation, which involved talking about a shooting at NU, stemmed from the one-week observance of the Connecticut shooting coupled with discussion of the supposed interpretation of the Mayan calendar as Friday being the end of the world.

Nonetheless, the sheriff’s office interviewed both the student who overheard the conversation and the student discussing the rumor and determined the perceived threat to be not creditable, Moon said.

As an added precaution, multiple sheriff’s deputies were seen roaming campus Friday, an already partial school day, parents reported.

“We have some presence out there this morning simply because we want to make sure that any students that heard the rumor would feel secure,” Moon said Friday morning.

An automated call went out to parents Friday morning informing them of the situation.

“As you can imagine, after the all-call to parents, we’re being deluged with calls,” Blake said. “(The) important thing is that we do have law enforcement on campus and finals are proceeding as scheduled.”

Moon said she did not know the nature of the alleged threat. No citations or arrests have been made in connection to the situation, she said.

“I want to thank the sheriff’s office for the additional police presence on campus today which reinforces our commitment to provide a safe and secure campus for staff and students,” Blake said in a statement. “As always please report any suspicious activity or conversation to Administrators.”

The concern comes one week after a man killed 26 people, including 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7, at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., raising concerns about school safety, gun control and those with mental disabilities.

“Everyone looks at something like that and wonders how it could be prevented,” Moon said. “We need to encourage people to report when they hear or see something suspicious.”

As the nation paused to mark a week since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the community there endured another mournful, overcast day filled with multiple funerals and visitations. At the hour of the attack, 9:30 a.m., a bell tolled 26 times, once for each victim killed at the school.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gathered with other officials in rain and wind on the steps of the Edmond Town Hall as the bell rang. Officials didn’t make any formal remarks, and similar commemorations took place throughout the country.

Also on Friday, representatives of the National Rifle Association spoke out for the first time since the shootings, calling for armed police officers to be stationed at schools to stop the next killer “waiting in the wings.”

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the nation’s largest gun-rights lobbing group, said at a Washington news conference that “the
only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

LaPierre blamed video games, music and videos for exposing children to violence.

“After remaining silent for an entire week following the Newtown massacre, the NRA’s first comments were to call for more guns in our schools and our society. This is both irresponsible and dangerous,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement.

“Schools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses,” Weingarten said. “Anyone who would suggest otherwise doesn’t understand that our public schools must first and foremost be places where teachers can safely educate and nurture our students.”

At the memorial services, a school psychologist who rushed toward the gunman was remembered as a caring professional, a passionate fan of the Miami Dolphins and a woman who ultimately put the lives of others ahead of her own.

One of Mary Sherlach’s friends donned a Dan Marino jersey for her funeral, which drew a standing-room-only crowd to St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church in Trumbull.

The church was adorned with a Christmas tree and several wreaths, including one with the teal, white and orange colors of the Dolphins.

Rev. Stephen Gleason said Sherlach’s love was Christ-like.

“No one has greater love than to give one’s life for his friends,” he said. “And she did so in an attempt to save others.”

Five other victims from Sandy Hook had services or calling hours scheduled on Friday.

The Associated Press’ Katie Zezima, Matt Apuzzo and Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report. To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4236.

“We have some presence out there this morning simply because  we want to make sure that any students that heard the rumor would feel secure.”
— Nevada County Sheriff’s Lt. Shannan Moon


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The Union Updated Jul 19, 2013 02:34PM Published Dec 24, 2012 07:55AM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.