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Conn. police say copycat ‘hoax’ school threats lead to arrests

Hamden High School
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Several high schools in Hamden, New Haven and Norwich faced lockdowns or closures on Monday as police investigated possible threats. The investigations came after a school shooting in Michigan left four students dead and seven people injured last week. Pictured is Hamden High School on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.

At least four students in Hamden and New Haven have been arrested in connection with threats against their schools that police are calling part of a hoax trend.

Law enforcement officials across Connecticut say they’re cracking down on suspects behind threats that have sent schools into lockdowns, closures and early dismissals nearly every day since last week’s school shooting in Oxford, Michigan.

Two students at Eli Whitney Technical High School in Hamden have been charged after social media threats that state police deemed hoaxes. The threats led to lockdowns at the school on Monday and Tuesday.

State Police Sgt. Dawn Pagan said the students weren’t working together, but they each created fake Instagram accounts to make the threats.

“These were found to just be sent as a hoax, which is related as a social media trend that we’re seeing across the nation right now,” Pagan said. “Students are looking to create these anonymous social media accounts and create and post these threatening posts in an attempt to get dismissed from school.”

Pagan, speaking at a news conference broadcast by WTNH, said the two students at Eli Whitney were set to appear in juvenile court Wednesday on charges of threatening and breach of peace. One teen also faces a charge of intimidation based on bigotry and bias.

Because they are both minors, their names were not disclosed.

Brian Foley of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said the state is investigating the trend of social media threats against schools.

“It’s not like one ring of people that are spreading them out all over the place. I believe they are absolutely copycat incidents,” Foley said. “It’s a phenomenon that you see after most school shootings.”

Foley says more arrests are expected in response to similar incidents.

A New Haven student was also arrested Tuesday in response to hoax threats.

The 13-year-old from New Haven made a threat on social media that prompted a lockdown of Conte West Hills School, a middle school. The minor was released to their parents Tuesday night. Police did not identify the student.

It’s the second arrest of a New Haven Public Schools student related to hoax threats. A Wilbur Cross High School student was arrested Monday after placing a 911 call about a man with a gun, a sighting they later told police they made up.

Cassandra Basler oversees Connecticut Public’s flagship daily news programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and coordinates breaking news coverage on the air, online and in your morning email inbox. Her reporting has aired nationally on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Here & Now.

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