Nickolas E. Mercado, 17, of Waynesville has been charged with making a terrorist threat after allegedly threatening to shoot students at Waynesville High School.
According the probable cause statement filed in the case, on Monday, February 26, Mercado entered a classroom at Waynesville High School and allegedly announced that he was a school shooter and was going to "shoot you all."
"Mercado made these statement while holding a banana in his hand like a gun, pointing the banana at several students and making the gesture as if firing a pistol at them," the investigating officer wrote in the probable cause statement.
The probable cause statement said that "several students observed and overheard" what allegedly transpired and reported the alleged incident to Waynesville High School Security.
Mercado has been charged with class D felony Making a Terrorist Threat, a charge that could potentially carry a sentence of two to seven years in the Department of Corrections or one year in the county jail or a fine. He was held on a $20,000 bond.
Mercado isn't the only student in the region facing charges for making a threat at school. Phelps County filed charges against a student from the St. James School District.
Tristan Michael Dillard, of St. James, was charged with Making a Terrorist Threat in the second degree and was held on a $25,000 bond.
Dillard allegedly threatened to "shoot the school up" according to the probable cause statement filed in the case, after becoming angry over a new seating chart from a substitute teacher. Other students heard the alleged statements and reported it to the school principal. The principal reported it to law enforcement.
In an unrelated incident, area schools were on a soft lockdown Wednesday morning due to threats made on social media. Waynesville Middle School, Waynesville Sixth Grade Center, Laquey and Crocker were confirmed, at the time of publication, as being area schools that went on a soft lockdown until noon based on the threat.
Waynesville School District put out a press release Wednesday afternoon stating that the middle school had "enacted extra safety measures and went on soft lockdown" based on a "potential threat against an individual student who attends the school."
“The threat was made via social media,” said Dr. Chris Berger, assistant superintendent of operational services. “Fortunately, this threat was quickly reported and law enforcement officials have investigated it and have deemed it as not credible and so we lifted our soft lockdown at noon.”
The Daily Guide contacted Waynesville Police Department WPD to ask about the lockdown and why other districts were locking down if the threat was aimed at one particular Waynesville student and learned that the threat was made via Snapchat and the Waynesville student had taken a screenshot of it.
The nature of Snapchat is such that a person can send a photo to multiple people and the photo can be set to automatically delete, to be unaccessible again after 30 seconds, unless the recipient takes a screenshot of the photo.
WPD said that the threat did not state a particular school and it seemed as if it could have been meant for multiple locations. WPD told the Daily Guide that a student from the Houston, Mo. school district was actually arrested yesterday, but to err on the side of caution local schools chose to proceed cautiously Wednesday.
Waynesville School District said in their press release that "students continued their regular classroom activities," but security was increased and "all exterior doors were locked."
WPD increased its visible presence, but contrary some other reports, were not searching buildings or other activities, according to WPD.
“The safety of all of our students is a priority,” Berger said in the press release from Waynesville School District. “I want to encourage parents to monitor their children’s social media activities and to remind them to report any threat immediately. Students are also reminded to not forward a threat or respond to it and instead immediately report it to authorities.”
The Daily Guide reached out the Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney to request comment on charges being filed in the cases of school threats. Hillman replied with the following statement, "My office, along with all of the law enforcement agencies in Pulaski County, consider our childrens' safety to be of the highest priority and any threat to children or a school will be dealt with swiftly and seriously."