Rumors lead to extra security at local schools

Schools in Clovis and Portales saw extra police presence Friday after rumors posted on Facebook and other social media spawned concern about possible shootings.

Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders said his officers along with Curry County Sheriff's deputies and New Mexico State Police officers stepped up patrols and presence at three schools: Clovis High School, Marshall Junior High and Yucca Middle School.

Sanders said the precautions were taken because an angry parent was spreading innuendo and rumors about a supposed shooting planned at Marshall.

Portales Police Chief C. Douglas Jones said Roosevelt County Sheriff's deputies and state police joined his officers in increased presence at Portales Municipal Schools on Friday after being informed a possible incident could occur at Portales Junior High School.

There were no incidents in schools in either city, the last day of school before the holiday break.

Sanders said the show of extra police force means "we will respond to each and every threat" or hint of a threat at any school in the aftermath of the massacre of children at a Newtown, Conn., school. Jones echoed his sentiments.

"We're not going to tolerate this," Jones said. "If the individual who (started the rumor) is identified, no matter what age, the person is going to be arrested and prosecuted."

Sanders said investigators were swamped with telephone calls, texts and emails Thursday evening in response to the veiled threats of a woman whose child's cell phone was confiscated by officials at Marshall. The woman, who Sanders declined to identify, apparently posted "something was going to happen … there would be a shooting at Marshall," Sanders said.

Clovis investigators and school resource officers have been studying the woman's posts on social media, but there doesn't appear to be enough evidence to charge her with a crime, according to Sanders.

"But obviously," Sanders said, "we know who she is."

Clovis Superintendent Terry Myers said he turned the situation over to police Thursday evening in addition to adding extra security at all Clovis schools Friday.

"There's really nothing to it," Myers said, "but we have to take all these kinds of things very seriously and respond to them."

Jones said Portales doesn't have any suspects, but the situation is still under investigation.

Superintendent of Portales schools Randy Fowler said their request for extra police presence stemmed from the Marshall Junior High rumor.

"Things just evolved from there," Fowler said. "People were concerned about what was happening in Clovis. The rumor mill was a lot quicker than it used to be."

Fowler said information continued to spread through social websites and mediums such as Facebook and text messaging.

Fowler said the quick response to the rumored threats helped keep things under control and set the tone for the rest of the day.

"Everything went pretty smooth," Fowler said. "It just continued to escalate and we just tried to quell those rumors the best we could. We want to make sure parents know the Portales Police Department was working with us and ensuring the school was as safe as can be."

Jones said providing a false report to law enforcement is a crime.

"We don't want an incident to happen like in Newtown, Conn., that's why we take it seriously," Jones said. "In this day and time, it's not a situation that needs to be played with and I encourage every parent to sit their child down to explain to them that starting something like this is a serious matter."

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