ACSO, GPD continue to probe school bomb threats

Local law enforcement continues to investigate three open false bomb threat cases at Buchholz and Gainesville high schools that occurred in September. 

From Aug. 19 through Oct. 26, six Alachua County schools received 19 false bomb and/or mass shooting threats that included Eastside (five threats), Buchholz (four), Gainesville (four), Newberry High (four), Hawthorne (one) and Newberry’s Oakview Middle School (one). Of the 19 false reports, three cases still remain open—including two hoaxes at Buchholz (Sept. 1 and Sept. 2) and one at Gainesville High (Sept. 30). 

“[Our detectives] still continue to work it,” said Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) spokesperson Art Forgey on the Buchholz cases. “I wouldn’t say that either one of those are closed, however they’re not as strong of leads on those two as what we had on the others.”

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Authorities arrested Buchholz junior Preston Powers in connection with the threats on Aug. 19 and Sept. 7.

“We have no updates, no change, no suspects,” said Gainesville Police Department (GPD) spokesperson Graham Glover regarding the remaining Gainesville High threat. “That case just remains open. Obviously we’re not going to just say, ‘Hey, we’re not ever going to be concerned about it.’ If tips come in, students come forward, families come forward, we will certainly follow up on it.”

On Friday, the sheriff’s office recognized its detectives on the ACSO Facebook page for working the cases that led to multiple arrests.

K-9 units called in from UFPD and ACSO

“We have some really talented guys that are good at their jobs that are our detectives,” Forgey said. “And rightly so, that’s why they’re in that position”

As the days progressed with multiple bomb hoaxes reported weekly and—for nearly a two-week span—even daily, law enforcement officials found methods to identify and arrest the suspects.

“It didn’t surprise me that they were able to solve them and solve them quickly,” Forgey said. “The more [the false reports] went on, [our detectives] refined the process a little more each time and got pretty fast and good at it.”

The FBI also assisted local investigators. 

“That’s something we don’t work every day—it was very unique—where somebody goes to that level where they call in those threats,” Forgey said. “Because it’s not something we work every day, they’re a little more methodical and thorough, but with practice comes quicker results and we definitely had enough practice.”

Both Glover and Forgey are relieved that it’s been nearly two months since the last false report.

“This whole thing just got out of hand really quick,” Glover said of the copycat threats. “It was affecting so many families, school, so you had a lot of people come forward to help identify those that were involved. Then it was just a trickle down effect. Once that opened up, when other people were making threats, people were very quick to help law enforcement identify. I think people got very exhausted with what was happening very quickly.”

Forgey added the effects went far beyond the law enforcement response and investigations.

“I know we’re talking about our side, but there was a lot of disruption for parents who had to take off work to go pick up kids when they dismissed school, and a lot of kids that were upset that these threats were happening,” he said. “There were a lot of people that were really inconvenienced and concerned about this. [ASCO] doesn’t want to take all the glory here, but we did this as a community, we went through it as a community.”

Mainstreet Daily News published a story recapping the first 17 bomb hoaxes that discussed the law enforcement man hours spent clearing the schools along with the disruption if caused for schools and families.

Story timeline since Aug. 19: 

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