Terrorist threats at High Desert Middle School could lead to possible felony charges

Principal may be charged with endangerment

This report has been updated to reflect that the Globe Police Department has not forwarded a request for charges to the Gila County Attorney's Office.

The Globe Police Department reported a potential terrorist threat at High Desert Middle School early Friday, resulting in four students and the school’s principal potentially receiving criminal charges by the end of the day.

The High Desert campus was closed on March 30 for Good Friday, allowing the police investigation to move forward unimpeded throughout the day.

The incident began on Thursday, March 29 at approximately 9:39 a.m., when the GPD received information from a concerned parent that one of her children, a student at High Desert Middle School, was alerted to a potential threat towards students and staff of the school.

The threat was planned by High Desert students, who intended to use home-made bombs and handguns in an attack on the school.

According to Interim Globe Police Chief Robert Folker, the investigation uncovered elaborate plans, complete with maps of the school and times, for a plot that was to take place in the near future.

Due to the ongoing investigation, Folker would not say when that would be.

Additionally, the investigation found that the school’s principal, Lori Rodriguez, had been made aware of the threat on the previous day and did not notify authorities.

Once police determined the threat was credible, Globe Unified School District administration suspended the students and Rodriguez’s failure to notify authorities took on additional significance.

“We felt that because of the information we received after-the-fact, there was no reason for her not to contact police,” Folker said.

After the GPD finishes its investigation, it will forward its request to the Gila County Attorney’s office referring charges for the four students, including “Interference with or Disruption of an Educational Institution and Terrorist Threats.”

GPD will also request that Rodriguez be charged with endangerment. All charges are felonies and should they move forward, the students will be tried as juveniles, according to Folker.

As of Thursday, April 5, the GPD has not forwarded those charges, as the investigation is ongoing.

The GPD is working with the Globe Unified School District’s Superintendent Jerry Jennex to determine how much of a police presence might be necessary on each campus in the system and for how long.

“We’re trying to plan day-by-day,” Folker said. “We want to ensure that students, faculty and staff have a safe environment at the schools.”

The names of the four students have not been released, due to their ages. Folker said if the county presses charges, more information will become available to the public.

“The police department asks that all community members continue to be vigilant and identify any potential threats no matter how innocuous they appear,” the press release stated. “The GPD would like to reassure the community that the safety of the students and staff is our first priority. We are working closely with the Globe Unified School District to identify and investigate all threats. We will take action when appropriate, so the residents of Globe have confidence their children are learning in a safe environment.”

More In Front Page