Police: Bellingham High student made threats of school shooting

Bellingham High School, Wednesday, March 2, 2016.
Bellingham High School, Wednesday, March 2, 2016.

A Bellingham High School student was arrested this week after he told peers he planned to shoot up the school, according to police.

The boy, 15, told about nine friends on Monday afternoon, Feb. 29, they shouldn’t come to school Tuesday because he was going to “shoot the place up,” said Bellingham Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht.

Word of the threat reached Principal Jeff Vaughn Monday afternoon. He called Bellingham police around 4:30 p.m.

Officers detained the boy and interviewed his family and witnesses. Those interviews — and a review of the teen’s recent Internet and social media history — showed his interest in school attacks had grown in the preceding weeks, Vander Yacht said.

When the students heard that, it meant something. It wasn’t an idle threat.

Bellingham Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht

Police got a warrant to search the boy’s home but found no weapons. Vander Yacht noted, however, that “in light of recent school and workplace violence incidents it is critical that all situations of this nature be swiftly and fully investigated.”

“This is not a joke,” Vander Yacht said. “There’s nothing funny about this.”

Officers arrested the boy late Monday and booked him into Whatcom County Juvenile Detention on suspicion of harassment.

Police did not identify him by name, and The Bellingham Herald does not generally name minors accused of crimes. Formal charges had not been filed as of Wednesday.

The boy hadn’t been in trouble with police before, Vander Yacht said.

A Bellingham School District spokeswoman, Jacqueline Brawley, said she could not comment on any past discipline through the school. For the alleged threats the teen has been placed on emergency expulsion.

Police credited the students and staff for taking the warnings seriously.

“This is a guy who’s been acting mysteriously,” Vander Yacht said. “When the students heard that, it meant something. It wasn’t an idle threat.”

What should others do, if they’re ever in the same situation as the boy’s friends?

Tell someone, Vander Yacht said.

“Do what happened here,” he said.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb