Social media users accross the country have put the public on high alert after numerous threats of copycat killings in the wake of last week's Florida massacre were posted online. The Washington Post has reported on several incidences of hoax threats occurring shortly after the school shooting.
“The police determined that the student did not intend to carry out the threat, but the act of making a threat against a school is against the law,” said Arkansas school officials after a Fayetteville High School student allegedly said he was going to “shoot up the high school like they did in Florida."
In Massachussets, another student warned of a “Florida pt 2.” on social media.
Broome High School in South Carolina also faced a scare after a student posted a photo to Snapchat depicting himself wearing a mask and holding an assault rifle. “Round 2 of Florida tomorrow,” he captioned the image. (He later told police it was a joke.)
Meanwhile, in Brevard County, Florida (not far from Parkland, where the shooting occurred), a 15-year-old girl was arrested after posting the phrase “I’m coming space coast watch out,” from an account named "brevardshooter."
“Variations of the post have continued to be circulated over social media with captions added to warn people not to go to various schools throughout South Florida," said The Broward sheriff’s office in a statement.
Schools around the country were closed after facing similar threats: schools in Gilchrist County, Fla., and Nutley, N.J. faced emergency shutdowns; schools in Onslow County, N.C., and Avon, Conn. were locked down. Others, including a middle school outside Atlanta, have undertaken investigations into threats.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered more security at schools after two campuses upstate were threatened.
“While the emotion, facts and consequences of yet another brutal gun attack continue to be processed, we must take a firm stand against any ‘copycat’ actors,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“There are certain things that occur in our culture that can provoke the desire to engage in similar behavior,” said Mary Ellen O’Toole, a former FBI profiler. “We know the crime of mass shootings, especially like this one, can provoke someone who’s already considering it ... When you do it behind a computer screen, you don’t see that at the other end, you’ve put somebody in tears."
Arrests over similar threats also occurred in Texas, Maryland, and Missouri.