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Threatening Messages Could Result in Felony Charges

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  School districts across Iowa have recently been receiving threatening text messages.

A nefarious hacking organization has now taken credit for some threats, but authorities say some of them are coming from local sources.

Trent Grundmeyer is a former Indianola principle of nine years, and now a professor at Drake University. He says in all his years of education, he has never seen cyber threats close schools, like they have in recent days.

“I think the challenge of the recent threats is that you don’t know if it’s your student or somebody in your community or somebody from out of the state or country," Grundmeyer said.

In the case of Johnston Schools, it was just that: an out-of-state Twitter group called The Dark Overlord claimed responsibility for those texts. The group also claimed responsibility for threats in Texas and Montana.

“One of my first concerns was is there going to be a copycat, and if so, when, because it doesn’t take time," Grundmeyer said.

A day after the Johnston threat, Algona Police Chief Kendall Pals confirmed officers arrested a 16-year-old who made similar text threats that prompted a district-wide closure. The teen is charged with terrorism, which is a class D felony.

“Very, very serious stuff, it’s not a joke. So I think to just inform them, you know, before it's your school, if we can let them know we need to learn and keep the expectations high and communicate them. Hopefully that will prevent some of this copycat nonsense from taking place," Grundmeyer said.

Des Moines police agree, saying threats like these tie up valuable resources that would otherwise be used to  protect the community.

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