On Friday, 02/23/18 at approximately 11:00am, Millersville Borough Police were made aware of Graffiti of a threatening nature that was written on a stall in a boy’s bathroom at Penn Manor High School. A student observed the writing on the stall and took a picture of it with his phone and then reported it to his teacher. The teacher immediately made the school administration and School Resource Officer (SRO) aware of this and both the school administration and MBPD began working diligently together to determine who was responsible. All available officers, including investigators responded to the school to immediately show a strong presence while video footage was being combed through to develop a lead. PMHS has numerous cameras throughout the inside and outside of the building and most importantly did have a camera in the hallway that captures any person that enters and leaves the bathroom in question. As MBPD put a timeline together each student that entered the bathroom was identified and interviews were swiftly conducted. The interviews continued well after school let out for the day into the evening hours however no admissions or additional evidence was gained to make an arrest.
Discussions continued between PMHS officials and MBPD throughout the weekend about appropriate action to take moving forward to safeguard the students while moving forward diligently with the investigation. The decision was made to keep the school open for the start of school on Monday, 02/26/18 with a heavy police presence. Additional manpower was brought in to aggressively patrol the school grounds both inside and out while investigators continued their work with the list of students that had been identified as using the bathroom around the time the graffiti was discovered.
Before investigators could even resume with interviews on 02/26/18, shortly before 8am, a teacher called the office requesting that police immediately respond to a bathroom located near her classroom. A student in first period class had gone to use a bathroom and this time found a handwritten note on a paper towel in the bathroom that again was threatening in nature and appeared to be furthering the threats made on Friday 02/23/18. Officers that were walking the hallways were only seconds away and immediately met with the reporting teacher and reporting student. The note was immediately secured and investigators were able to compare the handwriting on the note to the handwriting on the bathroom stall which had many similarities and appeared to match. Video footage was again immediately reviewed and at this time due to only a few students having used the bathroom at this early hour quickly focus on one individual that appeared to be responsible. The 17 year old male was immediately removed from the general population and questioned by investigators. Additional evidence was gained quickly and the student was placed under arrest and transported to MBPD where a parent was contacted and requested to come to the MBPD.
MBPD met with the parent of the 17 year old male and after explaining the facts gathered to that point the parent worked with police in full cooperation so that police could move forward with additional interviewing. This additional interviewing at the police station resulted in the 17 year old male admitting to both threats. Additional assistance from the parent allowed MBPD to take additional steps to be sure that the threats made were not credible. The student did not have the means to carry out the threats he was making.
SRO Hottenstein received approval from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office to charge the 17 year old male student with 2 counts of felony Terroristic Threats and 2 counts of misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct. Millersville Police Chief John Rochat stated, he and his Department take these threats seriously and they have done their job to bring this individual to justice. There are consequences for one’s actions and they will be held accountable. Against the recommendation of the Investigating Officers and the Police Chief, the supervisor of Lancaster County Juvenile and Probation refused to detain this individual in detention until the court hearing. He released him to his mother, into the community, with not even an ankle bracelet. Detention not only protects the community but allows for mental health evaluations and treatment for the suspect, which is often a common element of school threats. Chief John Rochat said this is appalling. *Edited 3/1/18@ 11:25 am