December 18, 2018

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Three arrested after online threats; all Lord Selkirk schools closed

Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School stands empty after all 15 schools in the Lord Selkirk School Division were closed due to social media threats in Selkirk on Monday.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School stands empty after all 15 schools in the Lord Selkirk School Division were closed due to social media threats in Selkirk on Monday.

RCMP have three suspects in custody in connection with two separate incidents in which threats were made against multiple schools in the Lord Selkirk School Division Sunday night in social media posts.

"The safety and well-being of our students is paramount and that’s why we’re taking the measures we’re taking today to close down all of our schools," said Lord Selkirk School Division superintendent Michele Polinuk.

"We’re concerned and continue to work with police to investigate. When we receive information that everyone we need to have in custody is in custody, we will be able to open our schools again."

RCMP have arrested an 18-year-old man, an 18-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy, all from Selkirk, in connection with the incidents. Charges against the 18-year-old man are currently pending, RCMP said.

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RCMP have three suspects in custody in connection with two separate incidents in which threats were made against multiple schools in the Lord Selkirk School Division Sunday night in social media posts.

"The safety and well-being of our students is paramount and that’s why we’re taking the measures we’re taking today to close down all of our schools," said Lord Selkirk School Division superintendent Michele Polinuk.

"We’re concerned and continue to work with police to investigate. When we receive information that everyone we need to have in custody is in custody, we will be able to open our schools again."

RCMP have arrested an 18-year-old man, an 18-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy, all from Selkirk, in connection with the incidents. Charges against the 18-year-old man are currently pending, RCMP said.

Polinuk said all 15 schools in the division will be closed Monday and it has not been decided when they will reopen.

Selkirk RCMP was notified of multiple violent threats in a social media post at 6:40 p.m. Sunday. The threats were directed against the Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School.

The 18-year-old male suspect was subsequently located and arrested.

A screen grab of the online threat, obtained by the Free Press, shows an individual wearing a red sweater with the hood up and a mask covering much of his face. Profanity-laced text accompanying the picture says the individual plans to go on a "killing spree" the next day.

Following the arrest, Polinuk informed parents and community members that the situation had been dealt with and that schools would be open Monday.

"I sent a message out to our community, parents and staff, to inform them that an arrest had been made and our schools would be open tomorrow," she said.

However, by 11:15 p.m., Polinuk said she was notified of yet another threat posted online — this time against multiple schools in the division. Once again, RCMP was called. Around midnight Polinuk was told by police that two additional suspects had been arrested.

The 18-year-old female and 16-year-old male suspects were both arrested for uttering threats and are both in custody.

Police are not looking for additional suspects, but the investigation is ongoing, a RCMP spokesman said in written statement.

There was a glitch in the online alert system the school division uses to communicate with parents, Polinuk said, which made getting word out about the closures more difficult. The system crashed around 4:45 a.m., she said.

"We’re relying on the media to get the message out and we’re using our own internal email system to send out as many emails as we can," Polinuk said early Monday.

She also said there was a previous social media threat against the school division about a year ago. In October, there was also another incident at the Selkirk high school that led to a lockdown. A 17-year-old student was arrested after showing up to school with a sawed-off shotgun and ammunition.

When asked why there have been a cluster of these incidents in the school division, Polinuk said that while they're concerning, she can’t explain why they've happened.

"All three are unrelated, that I do know. As to why, it’s really difficult. In each individual case there are various backgrounds and stories and issues as to how they got to the place they got to. The why is something that I have to leave for the police to find out," she said.

A mother and son — who is a student at Selkirk high school — spoke to the Free Press about the recent string of incidents on the condition of anonymity. The son said that while these incidents make him feel a little less safe at school, he ultimately doesn’t think his school is significantly more dangerous than others in Manitoba.

His mother said that while she's concerned about any threats of violence, she’s been impressed with the response from local RCMP.

"There is always a certain amount of worry when this stuff comes out, but I think the school and police have done a really good job of handling this stuff. The police have really been fantastic in their responses," she said.

The school division has 15 schools in Selkirk and outlying areas and serves the communities of Lockport, St. Andrews, Clandeboye, Petersfield, Libau, Grand Marais and Victoria Beach, according to its website.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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History

Updated on Monday, December 3, 2018 at 11:52 AM CST: Updates with full write-through

11:57 AM: Clarifies locations of division schools.

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