A teenager who allegedly made a school-related threat of violence in April has been charged in connection with the incident, during which Sampson Middle School and Clinton High School were locked down for a time.
Joshua Damon Newton, 16, of 1087 Faison Hwy., Clinton, was charged Friday with false report of mass violence on educational property. His bond was set at $3,000 secured and he was given a court date of June 30.
Just before noon April 4, the Clinton Police Department was notified by Sampson County 911 of a threat to an unknown school in Sampson County. The message, according to school and police officials, came from an online crisis center stating “a student had a gun in a bookbag with plans to use the weapon.”
The Clinton Police Department, Sampson County 911 and the Sampson County Information Technology (IT) department began to trace the IP address used., ultimately finding that it belonged to Clinton City Schools. As a precautionary measure, officers were dispatched to all Clinton City Schools sites.
The Clinton City Schools IT department was subsequently able to identify the IP address as possibly assigned to a device belonging to Sampson Middle School.
The two schools were placed on lockdown around noon April 4 following an anonymous email that “a student had a gun in his bookbag with plans to use” it. No weapon was found and four “persons of interest” were identified in connection with the threat, which was found to have originated within Clinton High School.
A small group of students who may have had access to the tablet were identified and the investigation was continuing until Newton’s arrest report was released Monday by the Clinton Police Department.
“The investigation showed that this person acted alone,” Clinton Police Chief Donald Edwards said.
Following the initial threat, Sampson Middle School was placed on lockdown due to a “potential threat,” meaning that students and staff were placed in a secure location and no one was allowed in or out of the school. Clinton High School was placed on high alert due its proximity to the middle school on West Elizabeth Street.
Parents were informed not to go on campus and that they would be notified when students may be released. Police and school staff began to search the middle school, including officers canvassing classroom after classroom.
“The Clinton City Schools IT department, upon further investigation, discovered the IP address was linked to a Chromebook located at Clinton High School,” a joint statement from Clinton City Schools and the Clinton Police Department, released later that afternoon, read. “The middle school remained on lockdown as the investigation shifted to Clinton High School. Subsequently, Clinton High School was placed on lockdown.”
With assistance from IT personnel, Clinton police and Clinton City Schools officials were able to narrow the origin of the threat to the high school, where police investigators and school personnel were able to locate the Chromebook.
“The security procedures and investigation allowed law enforcement and staff to quickly determine there was no immediate threat to students or staff,” the press release at the time stated. They cited an ongoing investigation by the Clinton Police Department, to be assisted by school officials as needed.
On Friday, Newton and his parents met Clinton Police Detective Donald Fisher at the magistrate’s office, where he was served the warrant for his arrest. Newton was reportedly bonded out immediately by a bail bondsman and was not placed in the Sampson County Detention Center.
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