Nome-Beltz went into lockdown, students arrested after social media post
Update, Tuesday, May 2, 2023:
Nome student Timothy Erickson, who just turned 18 last month, was arrested at Nome-Beltz Middle and High School on Monday and taken to Anvil Mountain Correctional Center. Erickson was charged with terroristic threatening in the second degree, a class C felony. At a court hearing on Tuesday, his bail was set at $2,500.
“We had a teacher that noticed a student behaving oddly, and then the same teacher was contacted by a student that alerted the teacher to those social media posts,” Nome Public Schools Superintendent Jamie Burgess told the Nugget. “That was reported directly to administration, and they’re the ones that initiated the stay-in-place lockdown and called NPD.”
According to the charging document, Erickson’s arrest was based on a post he made on the social media app Snapchat. It appears to show two students pretending to shoot at each other inside the Nome-Beltz campus. The video was taken from a first-person perspective, with a hand holding a paper towel roll mimicking a gun. The words “School shooter” were written on the caption.
NPD received the call at 11:47 a.m. Monday and responded, NPD Chief Michael Heintzelman said in a statement.
The charging document said that school administrators were advised to initiate a lockdown when Erickson was marked absent from his fourth-period woodshop class and his whereabouts were unknown. Heintzelman and NPD Officer Nathan Bryson were the first on the scene and were armed with AR-15s when they entered the campus, according to the document. By the time they arrived, Erickson was in his woodshop class. The charging document alleges that Erickson was told to drop a 2x4 piece of wood, escorted out of the classroom and put in handcuffs.
Still held at AMCC, Erickson appeared before Magistrate Judge Pamela Smith by phone on Tuesday afternoon. Smith explained Erickson’s rights and told him that one count of terroristic threatening in the second degree has a maximum possible punishment of five years in jail and a $50,000 fine.
The judge assigned the Public Defender Agency to his case, but Erickson said he would like to check if his resources would allow him to hire a private attorney.
District Attorney John Earthman asked for a $10,000 bail and a third-party custodian, telling the court that Erickson was currently under a juvenile disposition order for a previous offense.
“This is very troubling behavior made by somebody who should have been taking steps to make better decisions,” said Earthman.
Assistant Public Defender Ashley Sutherland acknowledged that the accusations were serious but noted that the video looks to have been made in jest. She asked that the bail not be set at more than $1,500.
“This has been an unusual situation,” said Magistrate Smith. “Threats like this, including any innocuous practical jokes, we have to take very seriously. You’re here today facing very adult consequences.”
She set bail at $2,500. If Erickson posts that bail, Smith said his conditions were that he must obey all court orders as well as state and local laws, keep in touch with his public attorney and follow any school rules.
“You have to stay out of trouble,” Smith said. “You have to take this seriously.”
Original text, as of Monday, May 1:
Nome-Beltz Middle/High School went into lockdown just before noon on Monday as police investigated a potential threat referencing a school shooter posted on social media.
“We had a teacher that noticed a student behaving oddly, and then the same teacher was contacted by a student that alerted the teacher to those social media posts,” Nome Public Schools Superintendent Jamie Burgess told the Nugget. “That was reported directly to administration, and they're the ones that initiated the stay-in-place lockdown and put the students in and call NPD.”
NPD received the call at 11:47 a.m. Monday and responded to detain the suspects, NPD Chief Michael Heintzelman said in a statement.
His report said that 18-year-old Timothy Erickson was arrested and taken to the Anvil Mountain Correctional Center and charged with terrorist threatening in the second degree, a class C felony. According to NPD, Erickson’s arrest was based on a post on the social media app Snapchat that “had the words ‘Active Shooter’ and a mockery of a gun.”
Heintzelman’s report added that a female juvenile was also taken into custody and released. Her case will be forwarded to the Juvenile Probation Office for further review, according to NPD.
“Teenagers sometimes do things without a lot of thinking. It doesn't matter—we have to take every single potential threat very seriously,” Burgess said. “But we're satisfied there was no danger. There was no weapon in anybody's possession at the school.”
Nome parent Koonuk Angusuc posted a video to Facebook of the alleged Snapchat post in question. It appears to show two students pretending to shoot at each other inside the Nome-Beltz campus. The words “School shooter” are written on the caption.
As of press time, NPD has not responded to a request to confirm whether that this is the video that lead to the arrest, nor did the department confirm whether the two arrests were related.
Angusuc said he found out about the lockdown when his eighth-grade son texted him. “It's really pretty sad when kids are texting their uncle or their parents saying they don't want to be there because they don't feel like they’re safe,” Angusuc said. “School is supposed to be a safe environment for kids—at least that’s how it was when I was growing up.”
Angusuc also has children in ninth and tenth grade at Nome-Beltz. He said he tried to call the school to find out what was happening, but whoever picked up the phone didn’t seem to know about the lockdown. He said other parents went to the campus to pick up their kids.
Burgess said the lockdown ended around 12:30 p.m. Around 1:30 p.m. she posted a letter to social media to notify families about the incident. She said she also sent the letter home with students.
“We take any and all threats of violence against our student body very seriously, and are grateful to the individuals who immediately shared their concerns with administration, who were subsequently able to act quickly to take appropriate steps,” Burgess wrote in her letter.
The letter said that the City of Nome is funding additional security measures for the entrances for Nome-Beltz and Nome Elementary School.
“At the main entrances to each school, we will be basically installing a buzzer system,” Burgess told the Nugget. “The inner doors now will lock after the start of school, and anybody coming in could walk to the vestibule, but they'll have to buzz in.” She said that a camera system will allow the secretaries to see who is at the door before they let them in.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.