EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 8, 2012

Police gave OK to announce alleged school threat

By Douglas Moser
dmoser@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN — Parents on Friday generally applauded the police and school departments working quickly to interview and arrest high school junior Jacob Butze-Maille, but questioned why they were not told earlier about his alleged threat to carry out a “Columbine” type attack.

Police and school officials said the investigation and preliminary interviews lasted until early Friday morning, when the police chief gave the schools superintendent OK to notify parents with an automated phone call. Parents, though, said they would liked to have time to talk to their child about the situation earlier.

“Most parents were upset a call didn’t come in last night or before school today,” parent Steve Stewart said on the Methuen Police Department’s Facebook page Friday afternoon. “The initial call I received was at 8 a.m. Most kids are at school at that point.”

“I feel we should of been aware of this situation yesterday,” parent Rose Chappie posted. “Just received a recorded call after sending my child to school and not having the chance to talk to him about the situation and his safety.”

Others wondered why all parents, including those with students next door at Timony Grammar School, did not receive a phone call.

Butze-Maille was arrested Thursday evening, hours after police and administrators interviewed him and launched an investigation into threatening statements he is accused of making to another student.

Parents were notified Friday morning when the Methuen Police Department posted a brief statement on its official Facebook page and blog, and the School Department dispatched three automated phone calls.

Police Chief Joseph Solomon said Friday afternoon that the initial investigation, including a number of interviews, was not finished until early Friday morning.

“After that situation occurred and our final preliminary interviews were done in the morning, I communicated to the superintendent it was OK to put the word out,” he said.

The Police Department said Friday afternoon there were “technical difficulties” with the first School Department automated call, sent on a system called Connect-ED, and that a second and third message had been sent.

Superintendent Judith Scannell said Friday that Butze-Maille was pulled out of class Thursday soon after the threat was reported and interviewed by Associate Principal Richard Barden.

“The student, when this occurred, was taken out of the class,” Scannell said. “He then spent the next hour or so with his associate principal. He never left the associate principal ever.”

Solomon and Scannell said they could not talk about many of the details because of an ongoing police investigation and an impoundment order from Lawrence District Court Judge Michael Brooks. But Butze-Maille was arrested at some point Thursday.

Evan Chaisson, the School Committee vice chairman, said Friday that he was informed around midnight Friday, but thought it would have been too late to send out an automated message. “We just got the official report from the police department at that time,” he said. “We wanted to make sure had the correct information before we rushed a call out to 2,000 parents.”

The calls and the police department posting happened early Friday morning. At the same time, the high school informed students the intercom. Butze-Maille was arraigned in Lawrence District Court at about 12:45 p.m., where he was held at least until his next hearing scheduled for Jan. 4. At about 2:45, Scannell and Solomon held a press conference with newspaper and TV reporters at the Quinn Building on Hampshire Street.

At the same time, the police department posted a brief update assuring parents the automated phone messages were sent out and Butze-Maille was in custody.

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