Aspen teen confesses to posting internet threat
An Aspen High School student confessed Wednesday to posting a threat online two weeks ago that closed some schools in the Roaring Fork Valley and led to lockouts at others, police said Thursday.
Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn declined to release the boy’s name, age or year in school because juveniles are generally not identified publicly. The boy will be charged with interfering with the operations of a school, a misdemeanor, he said.
“We do not believe there was ever any real threat to the school,” Linn said. “We are satisfied there is not a recurring threat to the community or the school.”
The threat of violence against an unspecified high school surfaced Feb. 8 in an online forum. In Aspen, local law enforcement contacted the Aspen School District early the next morning about a “threat to schools in the 81611 area code,” according to an email from the superintendent’s office to parents.
At roughly the same time, the FBI contacted Carbondale police because the agency had tracked the threat, allegedly from an 18-year-old high school senior, to an IP address in the Carbondale area, Carbondale police Chief Gene Schilling said at the time.
The warnings prompted the Roaring Fork School District to cancel school that day at all high schools in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, while elementary and middle schools were placed on lockout. During lockouts, school doors are locked, staff is on high alert and additional law enforcement officers are posted on campus.
Aspen schools also were placed on lockout.
Aspen police continued to investigate the incident over the past two weeks and learned that GPS coordinates associated with the IP address actually pointed to a cellphone tower in the Aspen area, not Carbondale, Linn said. That led to a specific IP address in Aspen, which led to the teenager, he said.
The teen and his parents met with Aspen police detectives Wednesday, when he admitted to posting the threat on the internet forum, Linn said. The boy said the pressures of being a teenager led him to make the threat, Linn said.
“He was very apologetic,” Linn said. “He felt terrible. He felt guilty.”
The boy’s parents were surprised to learn of their son’s behavior, Linn said.
The initial threat was posted about 11:30 p.m. Feb. 8 on the 4chan.com website, according to a copy of the threat and the corresponding posts provided to The Aspen Times.
“I’m 18, senior in high school,” it read. “I’m ready to give up on life. Either be sent to a mental hospital or jail and just rot away.
“Check 81611 news in the next few days.”
The post continued by proposing a game apparently familiar to users of the site that contained options depending on each person’s “roll,” according to the post. Those options included the poster overdosing on Oxycodone or committing violence at school.
“I will stab up my school,” the boy wrote. “I would shoot but my parents got a gunsafe. Knife has a 7-inch blade.”
The post, which featured a picture of a cat, concludes with the writer declaring, “I want to die. Pic unrelated. It’s my cat. Only reason I’m not already dead.”
The corresponding thread features other posters encouraging the writer to commit suicide, encouraging him to go through with his threats and using racial and homophobic slurs. Other writers attempt to talk him out of his plans. Some of the subsequent posts appear to be from the original poster, including one that reads, “Just keep up on the Aspen times (sic) and you’ll see how it goes.”
Linn said that such threats from a teen are generally a “cry for help.” However, after talking to the boy and his parents, police were satisfied that he doesn’t pose a threat to fellow students or the community, he said.
John Maloy, the Aspen superintendent, said he was informed of the student’s confession Thursday by Aspen police.
“I’m concerned about the well-being of the student,” he said. “Hopefully the student will get the appropriate support.”
Maloy also said he was glad the student was apprehended because that might send a message to anyone else contemplating similar action that “it’s probably in your best interest not to do so.”
“It did a great deal to interrupt the educational process throughout the valley,” he said.
For now, the student is suspended from school indefinitely while the district conducts an investigation into the incident, Maloy said.
A spokesperson for the Roaring Fork School District did not return messages Thursday seeking comment.
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Multiple efforts have popped up to keep the region’s Latino population informed about the coronavirus crisis and economic aid available for unemployed workers. A special Facebook public group called Coronavirus Aspen 2 Parachute Community Help provides answers to frequently asked questions and directs people to aid.