Riverside police late Wednesday stated that there was “not a shred of evidence” to support rumors that a student was planning to bring a gun to Hauser Junior High School in Riverside on Thursday and shoot fellow students.
Police Chief Thomas Weitzel and three other police officers as well as school staff were present outside the front and rear entrances to the school as students arrived Thursday morning to reassure them and answer any questions they might have had.
The message they wanted to provide, said Weitzel, was that there was no danger and that the rumor had no basis in fact.
“There has been no credible evidence that the threat was factual,” Weitzel said in a press release issued by Riverside police on Wednesday night. “Our investigation has shown that there were rumors spread throughout the school that a child would bring a gun to school on Thursday and that there was a gun on the campus, which were completely false. There is not one current shred of evidence to support these rumors.”
According to Weitzel, police received an anonymous online tip detailing the rumored threat, including the name and grade of the suspected student and the type of weapon to be used.
Police responded to the school, searched lockers used by the student and also went to the student’s home, where they interviewed the boy and his parents and received permission to search the home for weapons and to search computers for internet history.
Weitzel said police found no weapons, adding that the family does not own any firearms.
“The parents were 100 percent cooperative,” said Weitzel. “They wanted to do whatever they needed to do that make sure everyone was safe.”
Riverside School District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye was out of the office on a family emergency Wednesday, but was notified of the situation that afternoon, she told the Landmark in a phone interview.
The rumor spread quickly among students and to parents on social media, and school officials “conducted a thorough investigation immediately, talking to students, looking at lockers and working with the police department,” said Ryan-Toye.
Ryan-Toye said school officials are working to balance the safety of students and the needs of the student who was identified in the rumors.
“Our goal is to be as supportive as we possibly can to this child and this child’s needs,” Ryan-Toye said. “There are steps in place for individual support and at the group and school levels.”
Ryan-Toye said it is not clear how the rumor got started, but said it spread quickly via social media.
Following statements issued by police and the school district on Wednesday night, about 40 parents called police, according to Weitzel, who said he was calling people back Wednesday night as late as 11 p.m.
Most parents sought answers to questions about the rumors, but some went as far as requesting metal detectors at the school on Thursday or that classes be canceled.
Police will be present after school on Thursday and will continue to be visible at the campus on Friday, Weitzel said.