Bomb threats shake Gilchrist County schools

Area law enforcement agencies are investigating multiple bomb threats throughout the Gilchrist County School District (GCSD) over the past five days.

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) announced Wednesday that it is partnering with the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO), Trenton Department of Public Safety and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to find the person or persons responsible for the hoax calls. 

“Bomb threats are felonies and they will be handled as such,” the agencies said in a joint press release. “Students and parents should understand that choices to engage in criminal activity as exemplified in these recent cases will affect and have the potential to ruin your future. For those who decide to pursue criminal and terrorist activity, we will devote the time, resources and energy needed to successfully solve and prosecute these types of crimes to the fullest extent of the law.”

The joint release offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator(s).

According to a GCSD Facebook post, Bell High School received the initial threat on Friday morning. Law enforcement cleared the campus and school resumed on Monday. 

On Monday evening, all four GCSD schools—elementary and high schools in Bell and Trenton—received threats but were cleared in time for Tuesday classes.

“We want to assure you that the investigation into the recent school threats is continuing and is a top priority for multiple law enforcement agencies including Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement,” GCSD Superintendent Jim Surrency wrote in a Tuesday Facebook post. “Our number one priority is and always will be the safety of our students and staff. We are also trying to maintain the integrity of our instructional program by keeping schools open when possible. However, until this investigation has concluded, please be prepared for last minute school closures if necessary.”

On Wednesday morning, Bell Elementary School and Trenton High School were closed and Trenton Elementary School and Bell High School re-opened, according to a GCSD Facebook post, which said all schools will be open on Thursday unless notified otherwise. 

“We have detectives that are over there assisting,” said ACSO spokesperson Art Forgey. “We’ve had experience dealing with this.”

ACSO investigated almost two dozen bomb and shooting threats that occurred throughout the Alachua County Public School District since August. On Tuesday, ACSO assisted in Lake City when Columbia High School reported a potential suspicious package that led to a campus evacuation.

“We sent a bomb team up there [to Columbia High School],” Forgey said.

The joint release listed the felony charges that the person(s) responsible for the threats will face:

  • Written Threats to Kill – FSS 836.10 
  • Illegal Use of a Two-Way Communications Device – FSS 934.215 
  • Bomb Threats Made Against State Property – FSS 790.164(4)(a) 

Story timeline since Aug. 19:

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