HAZARD — Friday evening, at about 7:00 p.m., a girl told Hazard Police that her friend was making threats to conduct a shooting at Perry County Central High School. Both the girl and her friend, who is a boy, are students at Perry Central under the age of 18, so their identities will remain anonymous. The Hazard Police Dept. takes all tips of this nature seriously. Thus, they investigated the incident. At around 10:00 p.m. Friday night, Hazard Police discovered that the boy had indeed spoken such threats. So, the boy was arrested and taken to the juvenile detention center in Breathitt County, where he remains, awaiting a court date.
Following the arrest, officials with Perry Central and the Perry County School District were notified and they began organizing an effort to make students and parents aware of the incident. Since all of this unfolded Friday evening, school officials assumed they would have the weekend to make sure everyone was briefed on the details of the arrest. However, the Hazard Police Dept. published a press release about the arrest, as is customary in such situations. WYMT received the press release and televised a report on the subject. Once the public saw the report, posts pertaining to the situation began circulating through social media. Officials with the school district were concerned about people relaying improper information and misconceptions, so a public meeting was held in Perry Central’s auditorium at 7:30 a.m. Monday to answer questions and discuss the details of the arrest. Many parents attended the meeting, along with Perry Central Principal Michelle Ritchie, officers Jeff Ritchie and Joseph Engle, plus Superintendent Jonathan Jett.
Here are some topics of interest that were addressed at Monday’s meeting:
Only one student is responsible for making the threats. No other students were involved. Police found no weapons, or journals, or any evidence that indicates a shooting was indeed being planned. However, the verbal threats were delivered. The boy is not currently at Perry Central. Instead, he is waiting to see a judge. If the boy is released it is unclear at this time what procedure the school district might utilize in reference to the boy’s enrollment status. Jeff Ritchie brought his son, who is a PCC student, into the auditorium to show that he was totally comfortable with his child coming to school. The police officers and school personnel said the school’s environment is as safe as can be expected and there is no need for alarm. Jett also pledged to meet with staff and review safety protocol, such as making sure all entrances to the school are locked and closed at all times.
Officers are not permitted to discuss details of an ongoing investigation. However, Ritchie and Engle were unwavering in their assurance that the situation does not warrant panic or fear. Plans were in the works to also meet with each class of students to answer questions and fill them in on the details.
Police would like to remind everyone, including students that all threats of this nature are taken seriously. The staff of Perry Central and the School District said at Monday’s meeting that student safety is their top priority. The parents in attendance expressed concerns, as is to be expected, but everyone engaged in a civil and constructive conversation. School remains in session for the students of Perry County Central. Meanwhile, the suspect remains in custody, awaiting his court appearance. The Hazard Herald will follow up with another report when more information becomes available.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.