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APD Utilizing New Legislation to Investigate School Shooting Threats

Safe Schools and Public Places Ordinance has been used multiple times by officers to investigate student-initiated concerns and threats

New legislation passed by the City Council last year is helping Albuquerque Police Officers investigate and intervene in school shooting threats.

In 2016, APD school resource officers began investigating an anonymous threat of a school shooting sent to students via social media. But they quickly learned that the state’s laws governing threats, written before the age of the internet of mass shootings, made it illegal to threaten a specific person or call in a bomb threat, but not a mass shooting.

APD Officer Rob Debuck approached City Councilor Pat Davis, himself a former police officer, for help.

Davis drafted a new “Safe Schools and Public Places Ordinance” prohibiting threats to schools and public places in Albuquerque. It passed with unanimous support in November 2016.

“Our city ordinances have not kept up with the times,” said Councilor Pat Davis. “Making a threat against a school on social media or through a text message wasn’t considered a crime, which meant our officers couldn’t detain a suspect or get a warrant to find out information about the person making the threat and further investigate. We’ve fixed that." 

Since being put in place the new ordinance has been used multiple times by officers to investigate student-initiated concerns and threats received by students via social media, including:

  • In February 2017, students at a Northeast Heights charter school received a SnapChat video depicting students, ages 12 and 13, as shooters superimposed over surveillance footage from the Columbine High School shooting.  Within hours, officers had identified and interviewed both students off-campus.  Both students were referred to juvenile authorities for violation of the ordinance.
  • In March of 2017, a middle-school student told a family member they had seen a SnapChat video of an unidentified student placing a gun in a backpack as he mentioned going to a local middle school the next day.  Officers quickly interviewed the witnesses and in cooperation with APS police identified a possible suspect.  Officers located the suspect who admitted to creating the video which police report had become “viral” among students who shared it and their concerns.  The student was apprehended before school opened, allowing the school to open for operations without fear.  The student was referred to juvenile authorities.
  • In October 2017, several students at a private high school reported seeing a social media video of a classmate holding a rifle and telling fellow students not to go to school the next day.  APD responded quickly to identify the student who had been with a family member at a pawn shop selling several guns.  The student was referred to juvenile authorities.
  • In November 2107, a 15-year old Highland High School student was overheard saying he owned a gun and magazines with enough bullets to kill multiple students in the library.  After confirming the reports with multiple witnesses, a school resource officer quickly detained the student and his backpack. The student admitted to making the threats and was referred to juvenile authorities and removed from school

“Students today take these threats seriously and so do we.  Still, too often they result in tragedies in schools across the country,” said Davis, “but this new tool gives our local officers the ability to act quickly until state and federal law catches up.”

Media should contact APD for information about specific cases.