Top police officials announced Thursday that a south suburban man was taken into custody amid a series of online threats of gun violence against public schools across the city, including Simeon Career Academy High School in Chatham.
The threats came as the Simeon community reeled from a pair of shootings Tuesday that left two students dead.
The flood of menacing posts began to circulate on social media shortly after the first boy, Jamari Williams, was gunned down blocks from Simeon that afternoon, Deputy Chief Larry Snelling explained during a news conference Thursday at the school. Hours later, Williams’ classmate, Kentrell McNeal, was killed in a shooting in Hyde Park. They were both 15.
Counterterrorism Chief Ernest Cato told reporters that multiple schools throughout Chicago have been targeted. However, Cato noted, “The threat here on the South Side of Chicago struck a deep wound in the Simeon family.”
Cato said police apprehended a south suburban man who was allegedly behind the threat to Simeon and some other schools. He was cooperating with investigators, Cato added.
“It began with a old social media post from another state that someone reposted in Chicago,” said Supt. David Brown. “That’s the person we have in custody that reposted and continued to post threats to Chicago Public Schools. And we’re seeking the highest possible charge that’s appropriate for the behavior.”
Brown said the suspect “for various reasons has sent out several threats, a pretty prolific number of threats.” He’s currently on electronic monitoring for making similar threats to schools in a nearby city, the top cop added.
“Fear is likely the bottom line to why a person would do something like this,” Brown said. “It’s really tragic that … after Chicago has experienced these two tragic deaths of young people at Simeon that someone would now start posting on social media threats to stir further fears in parents.”
Brown noted that none of the threats “have been credible,” but he insisted they’re still being taken “very seriously.” Snelling noted that special safety plans were quickly being put in place around certain schools, adding that police expect more threats, including from “copycat offenders.”
Meanwhile, Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan offered sparse details about the ongoing investigations into the fatal shootings that rocked Simeon this week.
While Deenihan claimed that investigators “have promising leads” in the second slaying, he pleaded with the public to come forward with information about both attacks.