Roanoke Police speak out after school threat investigation

Police: ‘We do know that there is a connection with Mr. Johnson and the juvenile’

ROANOKE, Va. – A whirlwind week for Roanoke Police. Credible school threats shut down the district for days.

“We’re thankful that the way that Snapchat and the internet happens is they leave a digital fingerprint for us to follow. We just had to follow it,” said Sgt. William Drake from the Roanoke Police Department.

He said, at first, that fingerprint led them to 35-year-old Stephen Johnson whose email address was linked to a Snapchat group where the threats were made.

“I’ll be honest, we rushed it a little bit to make sure that we could find the data that Mr. Caldwell needed,” said Drake.

After police arrested Johnson, more threats came in.

“Copycatting is very common when we get threats against a school,” said Drake. “But they continued. And they were different.”

Drake said it wasn’t until police asked the FBI for help that they got answers quickly. They were able to track the threats to two tablets, found at the home of a 15-year-old Patrick Henry High School student.

[READ MORE: ‘He was not involved’: Charges against Roanoke man accused of making school threats dismissed]

That student was arrested and charged with two felonies for threatening schools.

Roanoke Police Capt. Adam Puckett said the teen and Johnson are connected somehow.

“We do know that there is a connection with Mr. Johnson and the juvenile. We are determining exactly what that connection is, but we know beyond a doubt that there is a connection between the two of them,” said Puckett.

While no weapons were found at either the teenager or Johnson’s home, police believe Johnson had access to weapons.

“We believe Mr. Johnson had access to weapons, but he did not have them at the time of arrest,” said Puckett.

He added that he does not believe the department wasted resources or arrested the wrong person.

“We’re going to put every resource we have available when there’s a threat like this to our schools,” said Puckett.

Police said they followed protocol and are now calling the investigation a learning lesson.

“The lesson that we’ve learned from this is we get one of these in the future, my first call is going to be to the FBI to send someone over here to help us,” said Drake.


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