At least four students have been accused of threatening violence against two East End schools in the days following a Texas elementary school massacre that prompted stricter New York State gun laws.
Two 15-year-old boys were accused of making threats against Riverhead High School in less than 24 hours and a 13-year-old boy made a threat against Westhampton Beach Middle School the following day on June 2, Riverhead Town and Westhampton Beach Village police said.
Then on June 6, a fourth student whose age wasn’t released made an unspecified threat against Riverhead Middle School, police added.
“I’m gonna shoot up the school,” the first of the boys allegedly yelled in a classroom shortly after 1 p.m. June 1, according to investigators. Riverhead High School security immediately detained the boy and police, who were already at the school for an unrelated incident, took the teen into custody.
Then, shortly before 8 a.m. June 2, Riverhead police responded to the high school again after receiving a report that another teen posted a threat of violence against his classmates on his Instagram account. In his posts, he mentioned the teen who was arrested the previous day.
“IMMA Send SHOts flying at the school for [redacted],” the teen allegedly posted, police said, as well as, “I HOPE I GET LOCKED UP SO I CAN SEE [redacted] AND WE CAN BOTH BEAT THE CASE SO THEN BOTH OF US CAN BOOM THE SCHOOL.”
Riverhead police searched both teens and their homes and found no weapons. Each was detained at Nassau County Juvenile Detention Facility before their initial court appearance.
Then in the third case, a 13-year-old student told other students and Westhampton school officials that he was going to “shoot the school” because he was annoyed and frustrated with his classmates, police said. He said he was being picked on and this was the only way to solve the problem, authorities added.
The boys, whose names were not released because they are minors, were each charged with a felony count of making a terroristic threat, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison, if convicted. They are facing the charges in Suffolk youth court.
In the fourth case, police received a report that a Riverhead Middle School student “threatened to conduct an act of violence against the faculty and students” at 10:11 a.m. June 6, but it was unclear if the student was charged. Police said the student’s parents are cooperating with the investigation.
The foursome are the latest in a spate of teenagers on Long Island to be arrested for making such a threat in the past week. A 16-year-old boy from Bellport allegedly made similar threats online of a “massive shooting” at Bellport High School on May 26.
And an 18-year-old Westbury High School student was arrested May 31 in connection with violent threats he allegedly made toward students and faculty, authorities said. They are reportedly among dozens of school threats reported over the past two weeks. Police across LI and statewide have been on high alert since the Texas school shooting.
NY Lawmakers Respond to School Shootings
These local threats came days after an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24 — the deadliest elementary school mass shooting since December 2012, when 20 first graders and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. The Westhampton teen cited Uvalde while making his alleged threat.
In response to the bloodshed in Texas, New York State lawmakers passed legislation prohibiting New Yorkers under age 21 from buying semiautomatic rifles, making the state among the first to enact a major gun control initiative following a wave of deadly mass shootings. The bill was among 10 public safety-related bills that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law on June 6.
Also enacted was a law that will require microstamping in new firearms, which could help law enforcement solve gun-related crimes. Another revised the state’s “red flag” law, which allows courts to temporarily take away guns from people who might be a threat to themselves or others. Additionally implemented was a law that will restrict sales of bullet-resistant vests and armor only to people in certain professions.
“Today is the start, and it’s not the end,” Hochul said at a news conference touting the reforms. “Thoughts and prayers won’t fix this, but taking strong action will. We will do that in the name of the lives that have been lost, for the parents who will no longer see their children stepping off the school bus.”
The state Legislature passed the bills last week after the Texas massacre and another 18-year-old gunman using a semiautomatic rifle killed 10 Black people in a racist attack on a Buffalo supermarket on May 14. The quick action in New York further illustrated the sharp divide between Republican and Democratic leaders on how to respond to gun violence.
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the congressman for the East End and GOP gubernatorial nominee seeking to unseat Hochul, said that government should increase security in schools and repeal gun control laws.
“Every school in New York should have armed, trained school resource offices,” Zeldin tweeted.
In New York, most people under age 21 had already been banned from owning handguns. People aged 18 and over will still be allowed to own other types of long guns, including shotguns and bolt-action rifles.
Part of New York’s new law will also require all purchasers of semiautomatic rifles to get a license, something now required only for handguns. Proposed federal legislation that would require buyers of semiautomatic weapons to be 21 is advancing in the U.S. House, but is seen as facing long odds in the U.S. Senate.
On the East End, the Town of Riverhead has scheduled a public hearing for July 6 on a proposal that would prohibit gun shops from operating in the downtown.
-With Associated Press