New York juvenile facing possible charges for calling in threat to NNHS

Isabella Ferak, Staff Writer

Naperville Police say they have identified a New York juvenile as a suspect in last Friday’s threatening phone call to Naperville North. 

A few weeks after school was cancelled due to a bomb threat on Sep. 22, the threatening phone call on Oct. 15 was announced right before the junior and senior homecoming assembly. Naperville North went into a soft lockdown for the remainder of the school day before students were sent home. Less than a week later, a juvenile allegedly behind the threat was identified.

On Tuesday, Interim Police Chief Jason Arres spoke about the threat at a city council meeting, detailing how both Illinois and New York forces are responding.

“He is a juvenile; it’s an interesting dynamic for us to work because we could charge here or out there,” Arres said. “So, we’re working through that with our state’s attorney, as well as the authorities in New York right now to figure out accountability for this.”

The police wasn’t the only agency brought in in response to the threat– the Federal Bureau of Investigation was there as well. In an email, FBI Special Agent Siobhan Johnson said that the FBI regularly provides assistance in response to hoax threats aimed at Chicago-area schools. After the FBI investigates the credibility of each threat, they determine next steps by the results of the initial analysis. They are also heavily involved in identifying the source of the threats.

“It is extremely difficult to eliminate all electronic and telephonic trails when sending a hoax threat,” Johnson said. “There is no room for error when public safety is involved, so each incident gets our complete attention.”

The public comment segment of Monday’s school board meeting gave parents and community members an opportunity to discuss the threat to Naperville North in the previous week. Parent Carrie Smith expressed her frustration regarding communication and clarity from school administrators after the threat.

“As the day goes on, you feel your stress level going up… What exactly was [the threat]? If something happened to your kid, you want to know exactly what happened. Within legality, what are you allowed to tell us? If you’re not allowed to tell us, tell us you’re not allowed to tell us.” Smith said.

Many inside the school at the time of the lockdown were frustrated too. Taylor Zimmerman, a sophomore at North, recalled that the shaken-up school day elicited student and staff irritation.

“Both students and staff seemed pretty annoyed, since threats like these had already happened before, and we were all frustrated as to why this was happening again,” Zimmerman said.

Naperville North Principal Stephanie Posey and Superintendent Dan Bridges both sent out various messages about the threats throughout the past week, emphasizing that their priority is student and staff safety. 

I share the same frustration, anxiety, and anger that our community is feeling,” Bridges said in a letter to the community. “I need you to know that I would never put our students in harm’s way.”

Despite the stress, identifying the source of the threat brought closure to many students. Junior Ashley Fitterer described how she felt when she found out about the identification of the suspect.

“I felt relieved that this might not happen again, hopefully. I’m glad they caught him, and I’m hoping for less problems like this in the future so that we can have a productive year at school with no more conflicts,” Fitterer said.

The news of the suspect identification relieved some, but various unanswered questions about the threats remain. However, Johnson, Arres, and other police officials assured that the juvenile behind the threats would be properly dealt with, and that accountability would be rightfully placed.

“In most cases, it is just a matter of time before justice catches up,” Johnson said.

Peyton Arens contributed to this story.

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