Gilchrist sheriff addresses school bomb threats

One week after the Gilchrist County School District (GCSD) started receiving bomb threats at its four campuses, Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz released a message to the public regarding the protocol and ongoing investigation Friday morning.

Schultz’s letter follows a week that witnessed bomb threats made at GCSD’s Bell Elementary and Middle/High School and Trenton Elementary and Middle/High School that started last Friday.

Multiple law enforcement agencies assisted in clearing each school and released a joint statement Wednesday vowing to solve the crimes and prosecute offenders “to the fullest extent of the law.”

Mainstreet is presenting Schultz’s open letter in its entirety:

I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the recent events surrounding threats aimed at our Gilchrist County Schools. I sincerely appreciate the patience, trust, cooperation, and understanding extended by the community during this very trying and extensive investigation. I also understand and share the frustration and anxiety that is being felt by everyone involved.

On March 11, 2022, at approximately 6:00 AM, The Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office was made aware of an anonymous electronic message, which was addressed to Bell Middle/High School, indicating a bomb threat.

Members of the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office responded to the school and subsequently requested the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office’s Explosive Detection K-9 Team to assist in the safety search of the campus. The search of the campus revealed no dangerous devices or visible threats. Due to the length of time needed to conduct the search, the campus was closed by the Gilchrist County School District.

Since this incident, we have received numerous additional threats indicating that all four public schools in Gilchrist County were possible targets at various times. A comprehensive and extensive investigation was launched by the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Trenton Department of Public Safety, and the Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office.

It should be explained that this is an active investigation, so for the integrity of the investigation, details, and methodology of how we are conducting the investigation cannot and will not be shared. But It is important to let everyone know that the safety and security of our students and staff is our number one priority as we continue with this investigation.

Some may wonder how a decision is made to allow one school to be closed while another school in proximity is deemed safe to remain open. Or how a decision is made to temporarily lock down a school and then allow the students to remain on campus afterward.

The only way I can address these questions and legitimate concerns is to say that the decisions made by the Gilchrist County School District and the recommendations made by my office are done with great thought and consideration; based on the ever-evolving facts and circumstances in the investigation; with an eye singularly toward the safety of our children and staff.

I can understand how these decisions may not make sense to those not familiar with the details of the investigation but let me assure everyone that I would never make a rash or uninformed recommendation when it comes to the safety of our children. All decisions that have been made, or will be made, are based on the facts available to us at the time.

The Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office and the Gilchrist County School District are doing everything in our power to make our children feel as safe as possible while also considering all the circumstances; by conducting random safety searches of all schools, by having an increased presence of law enforcement in and around our schools, and having positive interaction with as many students as we can.

While I can not promise any type of outcome in this investigation or how long the investigation may last, I can promise each of you reading this message, that we are committed to doing everything within our power, and the law, to bring this disgusting and cowardice crime to a successful and safe end.

Again, thank you for your patience and understanding during this troubling event. God bless each of you and may he keep us all safe.

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