A social media post went viral Monday morning, spreading fear in Washington, Missouri, and forcing police and the school district to issue a lock-in at the local high school.
It all started with a post to Snapchat that was shared between several high school students Sunday night.
The image shows a young man with a gun warning the intended receiver not to attend school in the morning. The image was addressed to everyone who goes to Washington High School.
Washington, Missouri police officers sprang into action when they were notified of the post circulating around 7:30 a.m. Monday.
“We’ve got to get the ball rolling, whether it’s going to be something that’s gonna turn up to be absolutely nothing, we’re just not sure,” said Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes, with the Washington police department.
Sitzes said it was an all-hands-on-deck effort, including the chief of police, in securing the school.
It took investigators about two hours to get to the bottom of the post, meanwhile parents waited for word.
“The first thought was, ‘oh my gosh, what is going on?’” said Julie Fakes, a mother of two high school students.
Eventually the police figured tracked the image to Indiana, and then to where it originated in Tacoma, Washington.
With the school in Missouri no longer in danger, the lock down was lifted and parents were informed.
“When that second phone call came, it was like, ‘oh my gosh what a relief,’” said Fakes.
“I actually drove by the school just to make sure everything was okay and everything looked fine,” said Sue Little, her son attending the high school.
As several parents explained, the incident is a reminder that social media can be a blessing and a curse. Ultimately it has provided them an opportunity to talk to their kids about how to handle situations like this and what to believe.
“I’m not really sure what to tell him about this,” said Little. “We will talk about it, though, for sure.”
Per the Washington Missouri Police Department, it appears the sharing of the post locally was done innocently, out of concern.
They do wish the students would have shared the post with them sooner.
Investigators tell me, had they been notified Sunday night, they could have avoided the disruption at school Monday.
As of posting one Facebook post discussing the image has been shared nearly 40,000 times.