An 18-year-old man has been arrested and charged with two counts of violating the Mississippi Terroristic Threats Law after posting threats against the Lamar County School District on social media.
In a letter sent out Monday, district superintendent Tess Smith said school district police became aware of the threats on Saturday and immediately began an investigation. The suspect, Xadrien Watson, was apprehended on Broad Street in Hattiesburg and booked into the Lamar County Jail.
“Thank you for entrusting your student(s) with us,” Smith said in the letter. “Please know that we do not take that trust lightly. All of our staff, especially our officers, take the job of protecting our students very seriously.
“Sadly, we live in an age where we must take all threats and whispers of threats as real and worthy of investigation. Jokes related to this topic are a thing of the past.”
Officials from the Hattiesburg Police Department, the local Federal Bureau of Investigation office, the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Marshals Office assisted with the investigation. Because of rules and guidelines of the school district and law enforcement, Smith is unable to divulge any further information at this time.
“The Lamar County School District is grateful for the assistance of all agencies who participated in this investigation,” Smith said. “We are also thankful to the observant individuals who saw the posts on social media and took the appropriate steps to report it.
“These incidents are not taken lightly and will be investigated thoroughly, and subjects who make these threats will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.”
The Mississippi Terroristic Threats Law, which went into effect July 1, defines terroristic threats as threats of violence with the “intent to terrorize, intimidate or disrupt a governmental function” – including schools and school functions – by any means, including social media. Such threats are punishable by up to five years in prison.