CORNELIUS Two students at Hough High have been arrested in connection with at least one of three phony bomb threats the school has received in the past week.
Student Bronco Villafranca, 18, was arrested and charged Monday with perpetrating a hoax by use of a false bomb and conspiracy. Cornelius police also obtained a secure custody order for a second student, a juvenile. He will be taken to a juvenile detention facility, police said.
Police said Villafranca told them the juvenile had a suspicious package on Monday.
“We intercepted this package through investigative work before it was left for someone to find,” Cornelius Police Chief Bence Hoyle said. “It was reported and expected to be fake.”
But Hoyle said the department still took precautions, evacuating the school and searching it for anything suspicious on Monday.
Cornelius Police, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Police and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police bomb squad determined that the suspicious package they found was not hazardous.
Hoyle said Monday afternoon that the situation is “still very fluid and way too premature to comment in detail, but we have suspects in custody, regarding both the events last week and new information and evidence today.”
Apparently thinking school was being dismissed early, a number of parents and other family members started arriving at the school after 1 p.m. Monday. The traffic badly clogged Bailey Road, as far west as Old Statesville Road, creating near-gridlock.
Monday’s phony bomb threat marked the third time in a week that students and staff were forced to leave the school because of a fake threat.
One Hough High student was arrested after two threats were received April 23.
Riley Bowlin, 16, was charged with making a false bomb threat, in connection with a threat received that morning. No package was found that time, but the school was evacuated later in the day when a suspicious item was found at the school. Police determined that the package was not dangerous.
Bowlin has no criminal history. Villafranca, the student arrested in connection with Monday’s threat, was charged with communicating threats in October 2010, although that case was dismissed.
Several students leaving school on Monday said they did not fear for their safety after the third bomb threat in a week.
“There was some excitement around the first one (last week),” senior Tyler Ford said. “But now it’s just like the boy who cried wolf.”
Added Allie Doten, an 11th-grader: “I feel like people are taking it less seriously.”
Still, some students seemed to be in disbelief as they boarded buses and walked home on Monday.
“This is seven different kinds of freaking crazy,” one student said to a friend while walking home.
Some parents advocated for heavier security measures in light of the recent threats.
Abigail Collins, whose daughter is in 11th grade at Hough, said she would support strip searches if it would help ensure safety at the school.
“They need to take it to another level,” she said. “In these days, you can never be too careful.”
Staff Researcher Maria David contributed
Arriero: 704-804-2637; Twitter: @earriero
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