RICHMOND HILL, GA (WTOC) - The Richmond Hill Police Department arrested and charged a suspect on Tuesday for making threats toward Richmond Hill High School.
Christian Padilla, 17, is facing multiple charges including terroristic threats and acts and a misdemeanor charge of spreading the threat on social media. *For the sake of transparency, WTOC is disclosing that Padilla is the stepson of a current WTOC employee.*
He was denied bond on Thursday by the Bryan County Magistrate.
Police arrested Padilla at 10 p.m. Tuesday night and conducted a search warrant at his home, where they did not find any weapons.
Padilla's charges stem from his alleged connection with an Instagram account that posted a photo of a written threat in a bathroom at Richmond Hill High School, as well as a second photo of officers at the school circled in red. Padilla, however, is not charged at this time for writing the initial threat in the bathroom.
"He disseminated the initial threat, and basically, for a lack of terminology, he upped the stakes or upped the ante. Posted a picture with some police officers circled in red and reiterated a threat in what he passed on social media, so he was taken into custody for that and charged accordingly," said Chief Mitch Shores, Richmond Hill Police Department.
The parking lot at the school looked half-full Wednesday as most parents decided to keep their children home.
"I definitely know I made the right decision to keep my child at home. Other parents I know are feeling the same way. It's a shame in today's society that we are forced to make that type of decision for our children. They shouldn't have to go to school and worry if they are going to be threatened or shot up," said parent, Cindy Hawkins.
Now, parents are saying the school will not excuse the absences from Tuesday or Wednesday.
"It's an outrage that they can excuse an absence for a solar eclipse versus a threat, so that tells me that as a parent you're more concerned about my child's eyesight than you are their safety and well being, and that's unacceptable," said parent, Desiree Tyus.
A Savannah expert in Developmental Behavior explains how parents should respond to each school threat.
"I would take every single one seriously until proven otherwise. If I have a child, for example, who makes a suicide threat, it may just be something he says when he's being disciplined, like, 'just kill me,' but I take it seriously and I make it very clear that we take it seriously," said Dr. Doris Greenberg, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician.
Parents say they are thankful for a quick arrest from Richmond Hill Police, but they want more communication from the school board on the matter.
"I chose to live in Richmond Hill because it's Bryan County, because the schools are considered prestigious, but if you're going to do that, what's the point," Tyus said.
The FBI assisted in the suspect's arrest, but no federal charges have been made. The investigation is still active.
Padilla's arraignment will take place on Thursday. He was charged as an adult per Georgia law.