Ominous messages sent from false telephone numbers sent Palestine High School into lockdown Tuesday and Wednesday, Palestine Independent School District officials told the Herald-Press Wednesday.
“Hello,” the text message read. “I have some bomb hidden in the school. I'm about to set them off. Good luck.”
Principal William Stewart was notified of the message by a student at around 2 p.m. Tuesday. He immediately locked down the school.
Palestine Police Department officers and PHS staff swept the building for more than an hour, and found nothing. Classes resumed shortly after 3 p.m.
A similar message received at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday started the process all over again.
“We treat every instance as if it is credible,” PISD spokesperson Larissa Loveless told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “Who knows if the responsible party will send the message for two, three, or four days before they decide to actually do something? We are not going to get complacent in our response to these threats.”
Loveless said a telephone blast was immediately sent out to parents, and notifications were posted on social media.
“We're working on having the notifications also sent out in Spanish,” she said. “Having parents contacted as soon as possible is incredibly important.”
PPD Asst. Chief Mark Harcrow told the Herald-Press the calls came from separate numbers detectives believe to be from a smartphone app that allows users to download several, “fake” numbers not associated with the user's account.
Harcrow is confident, however, PPD investigators will find the suspect.
“We're lucky to have the technological equipment we have, and Detective Sgt. Heavner, who has been trained by the US Secret Service in how to use it,” he said. “We're following several leads right now.
“We are going to make an arrest on this case. We will not tolerate terrorist threats; even if they aren't meant seriously.”
Loveless said the PPD, school officer Bruce Bradley, faculty, staff and students performed perfectly during the lockdown. If improvement is needed, she said, it is in parents' response to the event. Rushing to the school might only make the situation more chaotic.
“I understand parents are panicked,” she said. “They have to understand, however, that when the school is in lockdown, they can't go in and students can't get out.”