HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Henrico Police have investigated "reports of unsettling tips circulating on various social media platforms, including threatening statements and photos," in the days after a shooting at a Newport News high school.
Police have increased officer presence at Highland Springs High School, the school referenced in the message, and Henrico Police said investigators were working with school leaders to "ensure a safe learning environment."
"As with any threat, each must be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly," Henrico Police Lt. Matt Pecka said. "Henrico Police is committed to working alongside our school Division to maintain a safe learning environment. Take a moment to speak with your children about the severity of making such threats and the associated consequences."
Earlier this week, Richmond Police investigated similar social media threats made against Huguenot High School.
The “copycat phenomenon” has a long history in criminology, VCU professor and law enforcement expert Dr. William Pelfrey said.
“When people have diffused aggression, they’re angry at somebody but they’re not sure how to express that anger and see an expression of anger or violence in the news. Then it’s common for them to follow that same path,” he said. “Police have to pursue every threat as if it’s a real threat because it’s impossible to differentiate a Nicholas Cruz or Adam Lanza from some other random students who are merely angry at somebody."
Dr. Pelfrey encouraged parents to talk to their children about speaking up when they see a threat on social media.
Anyone with information about social media threats was asked to call Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000.