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Local police have opened an investigation into a shooting threat West County High School (WCHS) staff learned had been posted on Instagram Monday evening, Sept. 6, according to Sebastopol Police Chief Kevin Kilgore. He said the Sebastopol Police Department’s (SPD) investigation determined the threat was likely intended for WCHS, but probably not one made in seriousness.

“Based on the investigation, from last evening when we received the information to currently, the threat is not believed to be credible and may have been posted in an effort to have classes canceled,” he said on Tuesday.

He said that at about 6:30 p.m. on Labor Day, WCHS found out about the post threatening an attack and reported it to the Sebastopol Police Department. The post did not point to a particular motive as to why someone would attack a high school that way, according to the police chief.

“The post was very general and did not specify a time, place or school,” said Superintendent Toni Beal over email. “The posting suggested that spreading this information could allow students to get ‘a day off’ of school.” 

Beal said the Instagram post was “alleging actions of another student.” While she could not speak further on the student mentioned, she said Sebastopol police increased presence at just the WCHS campus because the post referred to a student who attended that school.

Beal said by email that the district notified parents early Tuesday morning using the Parent Square information system, "based on information from the Sebastopol police."

“We had increased presence this morning and throughout the day and we’ll continue to collaborate with our school administration to determine their needs and desires regarding our extra patrols,” Kilgore said on Tuesday, Sept. 7, finding nothing especially significant occurred at school that day.

The police chief said no arrests have been made so far and that he cannot share any other information on the continuing investigation.

Kilgore said he did not have contents of the message’s text or possible imagery on hand to share with SoCoNews, nor information on the posting account’s name, how recently it was created, what other posts the account published or how many followers it had. Police were only informed of the threat made on Instagram, he said, rather than other social media platforms.

The Instagram account, what happened to it, what other posts it may have published, its number of followers and when the post was published on social media are still under investigation, according to Beal. 

If someone was identified to have delivered the shooting threat, Kilgore said SPD’s investigation would find whether a criminal statute had been violated and officers would move to file charges or connect with the school district’s attorney “to determine if charges should be filed.”

He stated further, “There’s a variety of things that could occur, so it would be inappropriate for me to make a statement as to who would be charged or who could be charged. So, it all depends on how the investigation is completed and who is identified in that investigation.”

As for Wednesday, Sept. 8, Kilgore said the department already patrols schools more when the school year starts because of increased traffic and pedestrians around campuses, sending officers to enforce speed limits and make sure students and staff don’t get hit by cars.

WCHS doesn’t currently have a school resource officer, so police monitor the surroundings and talk to school administrators about what they might want or need, he said. SPD seeks to make itself available to the school community now in the thick of Analy High School and El Molino High School’s consolidation, Kilgore said.

The police chief stated the department amped up its presence to “make sure those folks who are coming to West County High School know that we are here and a resource for them,” who may not have known the former Analy High School campus until the consolidation. “And that’s for the students and for the parents and any school administrators who may be new to the area as well,” he said.

Beal said the district and WCHS will keep assisting SPD with the investigation and that, “in all cases related to student safety, the district immediately contacts law enforcement and works with them to develop a plan to address the situation and keep students and families safe.”

Staff Writer

Camille graduated from Santa Rosa Junior College and Sacramento State, studying sociology and journalism. While jargon sometimes moves her to tears, she strives to “make it make sense” so people can get informed and get engaged.

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