Suspect in custody after ‘credible’ social media threat against Sadie Tillis Elementary, DCPS police chief says

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sadie Tillis Elementary School was placed on lockdown Thursday morning because of a “credible” social media threat, prompting buses to be diverted and a warning to families to keep their students home until further notice.

The district announced at 8:44 a.m. that a suspect was in custody and officials were working to get the school re-opened.

By 9:38 a.m., the district announced the all clear and said the school was “open and ready to receive students.”

According to Chief of School Police Greg Burton, Duval County Public Schools was alerted at 6 a.m. of the threat toward the elementary school after the FBI got a tip from someone who saw the threat on social media.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement were quickly notified, and district procedures were put into motion, which included diverting buses and private cars to Westside Middle and alerting parents of students who are walkers and car riders to remain at home.

Burton said nothing was found at the school, and investigators were able to quickly identify the suspect, who was found and taken to JSO to be questioned.

Burton said he is not a student, but did not provide the suspect’s age.

NOTE: News4JAX has learned the name of the suspect from multiple sources, but we are not identifying him because of a history of mental health issues.

Burton said the threat was “credible” and that the district takes every threat seriously. He promised that police will do everything possible to locate anyone who makes such a threat and arrest that person.

“If you are out there and you plan to make a threat to our schools, our students, or our administrators, we will take that threat seriously,” Burton said. “We will locate you and we will arrest you and we will ask that the state attorney will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

The suspect in this case will face at least felony charges of making a mass shooting threat.

Burton praised the cooperative effort of multiple agencies involved in Thursday’s lockdown and arrest.

FBI Jacksonville Special Agent in Charge Sherri E. Onks released a statement Thursday about the tip that sparked the response:

“Cooperation from the public is one of the FBI’s best allies in preventing, detecting, and deterring crime. We take each and every potential threat seriously and, as we did in this case, act swiftly in coordination with our local, state and federal partners to help protect innocent lives. You can help the FBI and our partners keep the community safe by remaining vigilant and promptly reporting all threatening and suspicious activities to the FBI at or local law enforcement immediately.”

Burton said throughout the process Thursday, messages were sent to the Sadie Tillis community and parents to keep them updated. Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene was on the scene as well.

The messages Thursday included one at 8:44 a.m. letting families know “the person suspected of making the threat to the school is in police custody. ... Therefore, we are in the process of re-opening the school.”

Families who had their children at home were initially asked to stay at home until staff was back at the school.

Then an updated message was sent, saying: “The school is now fully open and ready to receive students and begin a normal school day. Staff and students who had been diverted to Westside Middle School earlier this morning have been safely transported back to the school.”

The first alert to parents explained: “We have received a tip that a person on social media was threatening to conduct a shooting at Sadie Tillis. The person also made a bomb threat. Therefore, the school is currently on lockdown and there is a police presence at the school.”

Parents were asked not to come to the school. The district said it would let parents know when it is safe to bring children to the school.

“Thank you for your patience and understanding as we take steps necessary to keep all children and staff safe,” the message said.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.