A Dubuque man is accused of using a pair of phones to create social media messages about plans to commit violence at a local school in January.
Curtavion L. Saunders, 20, of 2438 Central Ave., was arrested at about 6:45 a.m. Friday at the Dubuque Law Enforcement Center on a warrant charging first-degree harassment.
Police on Jan. 13 began investigating a threat against Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Dubuque that was posted on a popular local Facebook page, according to court documents. The threat, allegedly made via the Snapchat app, involved one person warning another not to go to Jefferson or the Alternative Learning Center the next day.
Documents state the message sent by a person using the screen name “School Shooter” warned “don’t go to school kiddo or you will be in ashes pure death!!!”
The threat, discovered on a Sunday night, prompted Dubuque Community Schools to order a two-hour delay for all schools the following day, but then classes were held because there was no evidence that the threat was credible.
Still, there was a “heightened police presence” at both Jefferson and ALC that day due to the threats.
Police reported that they linked both the “School Shooter” account and the recipient account to Saunders, who was interviewed Jan. 15 — or two days after the threats were made. Saunders admitted to receiving the threats, but he denied sending them, documents state.
However, police said evidence tied the “School Shooter” account to Saunders, according to court documents. They even dialed the number associated with the Snapchat account during the interview and Saunders’ phone rang.
Police Lt. Joe Messerich said the messages were issued soon after similarly worded school threats were reported in Galena, Ill.
“From what we can tell from our investigation, those two (incidents) are completely unrelated,” Messerich said.
He said it is unclear why Saunders targeted those two Dubuque schools specifically.
The warrant for Saunders’ arrest was issued on April 16.
Messerich noted that police always will investigate such incidents thoroughly.
“It impacts the whole community when you have to delay a school,” he said. “We’re going to throw a lot of resources at a case like this. ... We take all threats extremely seriously.”