The Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has decided not to prosecute a 15-year-old Manchester High School student who police said was responsible for a gun hoax threat in May that triggered a lockdown of the school.
After the May 17 incident, police requested that a Chesterfield Juvenile Court intake officer file petitions — the equivalent of an adult arrest warrant — against the teen on charges of disorderly conduct and giving a false report to a police officer. At the time, police said the student who reported the “threat” to school administrators did not actually see a gun and did not hear other students talking about a gun.
The school was placed on lockdown after police said they received a third-party report that “a student may be in possession of a gun at school.” Dozens of officers responded to the school at 12601 Bailey Bridge Road, and some students fled the building in fear. Some parents mobilized, fearing the threat was genuine.
Police cleared the school, found no weapon and determined the threat was not credible.
Asked this week for elaboration on what occurred, Chesterfield police spokeswoman Elizabeth Caroon said the teen suspect initially told another student he’d heard someone in the hall yelling that someone had a gun. The student then insisted that the suspect tell a teacher what he heard, and the teacher then instructed the suspect to tell school administrators.
“Further investigation, including witness statements and video surveillance, did not support the suspect’s claims,” Caroon said.
When police announced they were seeking charges against the teen, Police Chief Jeffrey Katz said, “The result of our investigation should underscore the police department’s dogged commitment to hold accountable anyone who chooses to disrupt or threaten the safety of our community.”
Katz said that while the report of a gun was a hoax, “the response and emotions it elicited were very real.”
The charges against the teen were withdrawn Tuesday during a hearing in Chesterfield Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
“Our review of the available evidence led us to the conclusion that it was insufficient to support a delinquency adjudication,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott Miles said in an email when asked why his office was not prosecuting the teen.
Katz this week expressed disappointment that the case would not be pursued.
“I responded to that scene and saw many students, parents and teachers scared to the point of tears,” Katz said. “Suffice it to say, I’m disappointed that someone who put lives at risk won’t be held to account for doing so; however, the Commonwealth’s Attorney is elected to represent the interest of victims and the community at large.”
“Tremendous trust and discretion is bestowed upon the person in this office,” he added. “I have to hope that he’s acting in the best interest of those he’s elected to represent.”
In response, Miles said, “I respectfully suggest that our police chief made a judgment in the moment, and that an objective review of the mature case has led us to a different conclusion.”