An 18-year-old former Riverside-Brookfield High School student was arrested Friday night and charged with felony disorderly conduct after he reportedly confessed to calling the Brookfield police that afternoon with a false report of another former student planning to shoot RBHS students.
The false report resulted in a soft lockdown at the school on the afternoon of Feb. 21 and precipitated a massive police response to the campus.
Riverside police arrested Nicholas Sikorski, of Brookfield, at about 8 p.m. the same night. Sikorski’s father surrendered his son to police about 20 minutes after Riverside police had knocked on the door of Sikorski’s home.
After consulting with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, police charged Sikorski with two counts of felony disorderly conduct. The first charge is transmitting a false report of a violent act to police. The second charge is for transmitting a false report of a violent act, which required a massive police response. Both are Class 4 felonies that could result in a sentence of one to three years in prison, but could also result in probation, Weitzel said.
Sikorski appeared in court Saturday, where a judge set his bond at $75,000. He was freed Sunday after posting bail and is awaiting trial.
At 1:09 p.m. on Feb. 21 afternoon Sikorski allegedly made an anonymous call to the Brookfield police, claiming another person was going to shoot RB students that day. According to a press release issued by the Riverside Police Department on Sunday, Sikorski said he had been mad at the individual whom he identified, because that person had ripped him off in a drug deal.
Sikorski’s motive, he reportedly told police, was to get the other former RBHS student in trouble. It was an act of revenge and retaliation, according to Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel.
Police officers visited the individual whom Sikorski allegedly fingered as a possible shooter on Friday afternoon and found him at home watching TV with his grandmother. Weitzel said that the man, who now lives in Maywood, never posed a danger to RBHS students.
“He was completely set up,” Weitzel said. “He had absolutely nothing to do with it. He knew nothing about it. He played no part in this at all.”
Once police determined that the reported threat was false, they concentrated on finding out who had called Brookfield police, who provided an audiotape of the call to Riverside police. According to Weitzel, Riverside officers and recognized Sikorski’s voice because they had contact with him in the past.
Police then reportedly found Facebook postings of Sikorski which mentioned the drug disagreement with the Maywood man.
“Officers worked all night long on this case until they apprehended the suspect, so that we could ensure that students and staff would be safe on Monday morning at Riverside-Brookfield High School,” Weitzel said. “As stated by the defendant, this entire situation stemmed over a drug rip-off.”
Weitzel said that the Riverside Police Department will seek reimbursement from Sikorski, if he is convicted, for the costs of the police response to the incident. Riverside police officers worked overtime, with the entire day and afternoon shifts rushing to the school to provide security.
Officers from five other police departments — Brookfield, North Riverside, Lyons, the Brookfield Zoo and the Cook County Sheriff’s Police — also rushed to RBHS to provide additional protection.
Police established a perimeter around the school and searched the building.
Students were twice in a “soft lockdown” Friday afternoon and were let out of school about 10 minutes later than normal. Police were stationed around the exits of the building as students were leaving the building. For about 45 minutes after students were dismissed no one was allowed back into the building.
During a soft lockdown no students, staff, parents or vendors are allowed to enter or leave the building without a police escort. Students stay in their classrooms. Classroom doors were locked and some students report that lights in their classrooms were turned off and students were told to move away from windows.
So many students used their smart phones to get on the Internet to find out what was happening and post on social media that Principal Pamela Bylsma had to go on the intercom to ask students to get off the Internet, impeding communication.
“Mrs. Bylsma came on the announcements and she told everyone to get off the Wi-Fi,” said freshman Carolyn Bartolone. “She wanted people to stop texting their parents and stop tweeting about it, because there were a lot of people on Twitter.”
Most students remained calm although some became very nervous when they saw reports on the Internet that someone was allegedly heading to RBHS with a gun to shoot students.
Of course, that threat was false.
“At no time was any student or staff member actually in immediate danger,” Weitzel said.
District 208 school board President Matt Sinde thanked police for their quick response.
“I appreciate the quick response of the police and staff to ensure the safety of our students, which is of the foremost importance to us,” Sinde said in a press release sent out on Friday afternoon. “We must take credible threats seriously to make sure that the safety of the children at RB is protected.”