NEW ORLEANS - A 14-year-old boy from St. Rose told authorities that online threats he aimed at a North Carolina high school were meant as a joke, but authorities aren't laughing.
Pine Forest Senior High School in Fayetteville, N.C. is more than 800 miles away from the community of St. Rose in St. Charles Parish. But authorities said the local teen made a connection online that landed him behind bars on serious charges.
"He used an anonymous name and through going through Twitter was able to find the names of other students at the school, and it made it look like it was a local threat," said Capt. Pat Yoes of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office.
The teen has been booked with terrorizing for allegedly making threatening comments about the school on a website related to education. Those comments were then re-posted on Twitter and Facebook.
Yoes said his agency was contacted by North Carolina authorities to assist in the investigation.
Investigators quickly determined that the threatening comments were posted from a computer in the St. Rose area.
"There's no anonymity when you decide to make threats like this," Yoes said. "We're going to find out who you are."
Yoes and investigators in North Carolina said the teen had no connections to the school.
"It doesn't appear that he's even been in that particular state," Yoes said. "There's no connections. He just randomly found this chat room and engaged in the conversation."
Cumberland County Sheriff's Office authorities told FOX 8 News that the teen made the threatening online comments from a chat room associated with the Edmodo website. The website is designed to connect students and teachers so they can collaborate.
"He named the young lady that he was going to shoot, then said he was going to shoot up the school and then he was going to kill himself," said Debbie Tanna, a spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department.
"He engaged in a conversation with some of the students and that's when he did some searching to find names of others and to make it appear that you know that he was local," said Captain Yoes.
Tanna said the teen told his dad it was part of a joke.
"His response was that he wanted to see what would happen, how they reacted," stated Yoes.
"He said he wants to see what their reaction is, which is foolish because now those words constitute a criminal violation," said Loyola University Criminologist and Sociologist George Capowich, Ph.D.
Capowich said there's a big difference in making off-color comments verbally and online.
"Even if you mean something as a joke, once you put it in writing, it's very difficult to represent that in writing," Capowich said.
Capowich said young people must learn to respect the potency of social media, because once something is written, it remains forever.
"Schools, parents, other adults in the community have to educate children about the power of this social media," Capowich said.
"You need to know when you make threats like this they are going to be investigated, and technology today makes it easier for us to track down IP address," said Yoes.