Aspen schools locked down for five hours | AspenTimes.com

Aspen schools locked down for five hours

Law enforcement presence at the Aspen School District campus Thursday was prompted by an internet threat later determined not to be credible.

Aspen public school students were locked inside buildings on campus for about five hours Thursday as a result of emails that threatened violence, according to school and law enforcement officials.

However, no specific threats ever came to fruition and Roaring Fork Valley law enforcement officials determined by Thursday afternoon the threat was not credible.

"In the old days, it was pulling the fire alarm or calling in a bomb threat," said Pitkin County Undersheriff Ron Ryan. "Now with the internet, we will have to adjust to these things as they come up."

The situation began Thursday morning when the Carbondale Police Department received a phone call from the FBI reporting a tip from a caller to a national terrorism hotline, said Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling. That person said an 18-year-old high school senior planned violence Thursday at his or her school, he said.

The FBI traced the threat to a Carbondale-area internet provider address, Schilling said, prompting the closure of Roaring Fork School District high schools and a lockout for the district's elementary and middle schools. The FBI never had a specific location, name or gender associated with the threat or the IP address, he said.

Further, it wasn't clear if the Carbondale-area IP address was the source of the threat or an address used to bounce the threat message around the internet, Schilling said. An investigation is continuing, he said.

"We don't believe it was a credible threat," he said. "We've been advised that they think it is a scam or spoof emails. They're not really real."

Both Schilling and Ryan said they were told other areas in the country also received similar threats, though internet searches Thursday didn't turn up any reports of similar warnings. Ryan said the threat specifically mentioned schools in the 81611 area code, though emails with similar language in the same thread mentioned other ZIP codes, as well.

Aspen schools were alerted to the threat at 7:45 a.m. — after buses and students were already en route to the campus — and implemented a lockout at 8:13 a.m. for all three Aspen schools, according to an Aspen School District email sent to parents. No one was allowed in or out of the buildings without permission from law enforcement or school administrators, the email states.

The lockout was lifted at 12:50 p.m., according to the email.

Pitkin County sheriff's deputies also notified Aspen Country Day School officials about the threat Thursday morning, said Carolyn Hines, the school's director of communication. Deputies said they didn't believe students were under threat, but would continue to send patrols by the school every 30 minutes or so, she said.

"We were very pleased with that," Hines said. "There's been an active presence on our campus."

A phone message seeking comment about the situation from the Aspen Community School was not returned.

jauslander@aspentimes.com