Chandler PD: 'Columbine-type' threat sparks school evacuation - Tucson News Now

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Chandler PD: 'Columbine-type' threat sparks school evacuation

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A Chandler school was evacuated after a bomb threat was made and a possible explosive device was found at a student's apartment. (Source: CBS 5 News) A Chandler school was evacuated after a bomb threat was made and a possible explosive device was found at a student's apartment. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Ken "Chief" Hill Learning Academy is a school in the Chandler Unified School District for junior high and high school students. (Source: CBS 5 News) Ken "Chief" Hill Learning Academy is a school in the Chandler Unified School District for junior high and high school students. (Source: CBS 5 News)
CHANDLER, AZ (CBS5) -

A Chandler teen, arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat against his school, has been released to his parents.

Chandler police said detectives are working with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to determine if an charges will be filed against him.

Police evacuated Ken "Chief" Hill Learning Academy on Tuesday morning, after a student received a text message from a 16-year-old schoolmate who threatened to execute a "Columbine-type" incident.

After a thorough search, no suspicious devices were found on the campus located at 290 S. Cooper Road, said Chandler Police Detective Seth Tyler.

The threat was reported to the school's principal at about 10:15 a.m., Tyler said. The text message indicated the student was planning on carrying it out at 11:25 a.m.

About 200 students attend the alternative school for troubled teens.

Within minutes they were taken off campus and turned over to their parents at a nearby church.

Authorities used several bomb-sniffing dogs, X-ray equipment and even robotic tools to thoroughly comb through the entire school.

"We had information that there was a device hidden in the bushes and another device hidden inside the school," said Chandler Police Sgt. Joe Favazzo. "Contrary to what I had put out earlier that we had put eyes on, we did not. It was all information that we were given."

Police describe the suspect as a student who may have been having issues.

"That is something that we will look at - bullying looking to retaliate," Favazzo said.

Once police made sure the suspect wasn't on campus, it led them to a second location. 

Police said they found a device at the suspect's townhouses at the Newcastle Townehome complex at 860 N. McQueen Road.

"Officers could see a device inside of the suspect's home that appeared to be suspicious," Tyler said. "It appeared to be some type of explosive device."

The complex was partially evacuated, leaving neighbors nervous and unaware of what was happening.

"My dog was barking. Next thing you know I kinda came out and the cops were everywhere and I saw the robot machine kind of approaching," explained Marco Renteria, who lives in the complex. Residents, such as a woman who would only identify herself as "Nicole," said they were a bit "freaked out" by the police presence.

"Well that's part of why I want to leave. Just cause I can feel the energy is just not right. I don't want to be around here," she said as she drove out of the complex.

Authorities later determined the object was a "dummy bomb." That's described as a device made to look like a bomb but is, in fact, not an explosive.

The Chandler Unified School District said in a statement, "We turned over the operation to the police and appreciated their efforts. Our students were orderly and understood the importance of evacuating the facility. We compliment the Chandler police for their efforts and appreciate them taking the matter seriously."

The school was turned over to the principal and staff at around 2:45 p.m. once authorities made sure the campus was safe. 

Police said the investigation involved ATF, the Mesa Bomb Squad and nearly every Chandler police officer, in both uniform and plain clothes.  

Officers said they will definitely let the County Attorney's Office know about the police manpower this "threat" provoked as charges are considered.

Watch full coverage of the day's events on CBS 5 News at 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News as this story develops.

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