What were the odds.
An alarming tweet that could have been a threat against Brownwood High School Monday afternoon came from a 15-year-old Metroplex-area high school student who was working on a class assignment, Brownwood police learned.
The assignment was related to a fiction book called “Once And For All.” The book contained a section about a school shooting at a fictional high school — Brownwood High School.
In New Jersey. The Brownwood Tigers.
“Prayers to all the victims of the shooting at Brownwood High School,” the female student tweeted under the name of the one of the book’s characters.
The tweet prompted a police presence at the high school Monday afternoon and some confusion as to whether the school was actually on lockdown.
Brownwood police Lt. James Kidd talked to the media Wednesday afternoon about the incident.
About 30 minutes before school ended for the day, school resource officer Fred Bastardo learned of a suspicious message on Twitter — the message offering prayers to Brownwood High School shooting victims.
“Obviously, receiving that type of text, without knowing the nature or who created it, caused some kind of alarm or concern,” Kidd said.
Bastardo notified patrol officers and school administration, and patrol officers were dispatched to the high school.
“So while we were there at the high school, making sure everybody was safe there, our criminal investigation division started working on the Twitter account, working with Twitter, and were able to identify a 15-year-old student in the Metroplex area who had created the account three days earlier,” Kidd said.
“Upon talking to her, we got to talk to parents, we got to talk to school staff, and apparently it was based on a project at that school district on a book she was reading. She had different ways of portraying how she knew the information in the book, and one of them was going through Twitter, by creating a (book) character account and having 12 of the characters in the book respond to that account.”
Kidd declined to name the school district involved.
“So unbeknown to her, and under no malicious intent whatsoever, she created that account, according to the school, and she started tweeting on that account,” Kidd said.
Police verified the girl’s story and have been in communication with the school, Kidd said.
There was never a direct threat toward the real Brownwood High School but police “treated it as one until we found out further about the message on Twitter,” Kidd said.
With the cooperation of Twitter, detectives were able to learn those details after about 90 minutes of work Monday afternoon, Kidd said.
“In the law enforcement world, it was extremely quick,” Kidd said. “It started around 2:30 p.m. We had the person identified and were questioning them by 4 p.m.
“When we made contact with the juvenile and the parents, they had no idea they had caused this and they apologized for any type of reaction that was made due to this.
“It’s a unique situation. If I told (a person) this is what happened, it would be almost unbelievable for this type of situation to happen — that bad luck, the poor judgment, the names involved. It’s almost hard to believe.”
Brownwood superintendent Dr. Joe Young said
Kidd said some students and teachers at the school Monday afternoon may have interpreted patrol officer’s response as a lockdown.
“It was never officially on lockdown,” Kidd said. “When patrol officers got there, they were directing some students to go inside the buildings or go to their cars, trying to help coordinate the response.”
Kidd said he doesn’t consider the police department’s response to the incident an overreaction. “I’d much rather have this type of reaction to make sure we take everything as legitimate until we’re able to confirm that it’s not a direct threat, rather than just taking no action and hoping for the best,” Kidd said.
The lieutenant said he’s proud of how quickly detectives were able to determine the origin of the tweet.
“To be able to take care of it and handle business, and question the correct people within an hour, hour and a half, is pretty amazing,” Kidd said.
Brownwood superintendent Dr. Joe Young said via email he has been briefed by Brownwood police. “It is an interesting case,” Young said.
“In today’s society, school security is in an ever-changing state. The proliferation of social media has created a scenario where every word someone writes can have huge, and sometimes unintended, effects. The series of events that took place following that post are unique and have given us good opportunity to discuss and learn.
“I applaud the cautious approach our staff took and, if this had been a real situation, the positive impact it would have made on student and staff safety. The bottom line is: based on what they thought would keep kids safe, we had staff members who made a decision without a directive from administration. That is not something we are looking to discourage, even if it takes time for us to learn all the details. Our students’ safety is the most important factor.”