By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
Mattoon Police officers arrested a teenage girl last week in Effingham hours after she had posted a threat of gun violence on social media against Mattoon High School, Mattoon Police Chief Jason Taylor confirmed Monday.
The threat turned out to be a hoax, but the 14-year-old defendant is facing a Class X Felony charge for Making a Terrorist Threat. The juvenile, whose name is not released based on Juvenile Justice restrictions, was immediately taken to a juvenile lockup facility in Vermilion County.
“She was at a friend’s house in Effingham when she was located. Mattoon officers took her to the Effingham Police Department after the arrest at 10:15 on Thursday, Feb. 22. She was interviewed and taken to the Vermilion County Juvenile Detention Center that night,” Taylor explained.
Mattoon officers determined the girl had no true intention of carrying out any act of violence against anyone. She was not armed and had no access to firearms.
However, her threat on Snap Chat gained a lot of attention just a week after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, and just five months after a shooting incident that left one student wounded at Mattoon High School. Chief Taylor was personally touched by the shooting in Mattoon because one of his daughters was in the high school cafeteria that day.
Even without any actual violence or intent, the effect of a threat of violence does hold a potential sentence of six to 30 years in prison if convicted.
“This is such a disruption to the school and families. We put a lot of resources and effort into solving it as quickly as possible,” Taylor said in reference to the hoax last week.
To prevent others from issuing threats, Taylor offered some advice to Snap Chat or other social media users. Joking around with such a subject nowadays spreads fear and can lead to harsh penalties.
“People are under the false assumption that when they put something on Snap Chat it can disappear. It doesn’t and it can cause such a massive disruption that they can’t even imagine,” Taylor said.