GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Goochland County Public Schools and the Goochland County Sheriff’s Office said a juvenile was taken into custody at around 11 p.m. Thursday, May 11 after they say they made a threat that put three schools in the county into lockdown.
The juvenile, who is not a Goochland County Public School student, has been charged with a class 6 felony for threats of death or bodily injury to persons on school property. The charge could result in a prison sentence of up to five years.
Andy Armstrong, interim superintendent, said a staff member received two text messages on Thursday morning. The texts came from an unknown number and they referenced weapons, as well as the intent to harm.
“It stated in the text that they were inside the building, which really elevated the urgency in our response to that,” he said.
Deputies and school administrators searched the building, classrooms and students’ belongings. Authorities said they didn’t find any contraband or weapons on the property.
Kelsey Epps, a junior at Goochland High School, got emotional as she talked about being in a dark classroom with little to no information about what was going on.
“My classroom wasn’t connected to the windows, so we were in pitch blackness for about three hours. When they finally did open the door we had the SWAT team come in and all we could see was their gun,” said Epps. “We didn’t see the actual person, and we seriously thought it was the real shooter. But then the teachers came in and we realized it was actual help, and we just felt like this is over and that we’re going to be OK.”
“This was all a result of one text message and that just goes to show the power of that to disrupt what we do every day,” Armstrong said.
With school threats becoming more common across the country, Armstrong said he’s proud of the way school staff and law enforcement handled the incident.
“We see things in the news. Actual, tragic events that happen not just in schools, but also in public places and in other locations nationwide. We just are not in a position to where we’re going to risk the life or the safety of one kid in our school division,” he said. “We’re here acting to protect those kids every day and we just can’t take that chance nowadays.”
Epps said she’s thankful for the school’s closure, as she prepares for her prom this weekend.
“I’m just glad that we’re all OK and that we have a day to just decompress from that,” she said.
Goochland Schools said school activities and classes will continue as normal through the weekend and into next week.