Sheriff: Serious Threat Against Palisade High School Foiled, Student Arrested

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

The Mesa County Sheriff's Office says it has foiled a possible plot by a student against Palisade High School thanks to the swift work of deputies and the school district.

Officials are releasing few details about the plot as they continue their investigation into the threat.

Students walked out the doors of Palisade High School Tuesday afternoon like it was any normal day -- something officials say they're glad to see after a possible threat was made against the school.

"We believe there was a potential threat to Palisade High School," said Sheriff Stan Hilkey. "And that the threat involved the use of weapons and or explosives."

The Mesa County Sheriff's Office says it caught wind of the plot during the day, Monday. And while officials would not go into detail about how they were tipped off or where the investigation went from there, they arrested 18-year-old Robert Johnson on charges of criminal solicitation and interference with an educational institution. They say Johnson is a current student at Palisade High School.

"In working with school officials, we still feel like we have very safe schools in Mesa County," said Hilkey. "This is a process that worked, information was discovered and it was acted on very swiftly."

Johnson's arrest affidavit has been sealed while deputies continue their investigation.

"We don't want to compromise our own ability to get good information and to do this investigation correctly," said Hilkey.

During Johnson's court appearance Tuesday afternoon, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger called the details in the affidavit "profoundly disturbing." He also said there were some allegations that drug use was involved with this case.

"This was a serious incident," said Hilkey.

School District 51 says safety is it's top priority and it's glad to see the policies in place and staff training did exactly what they were supposed to do.

"I think the response by school administrators and law enforcement was handled very appropriately," said Steve Schultz, Superintendent of Schools for School District 51.

School officials say they only hope this incident will reinforce the good that comes from working together and doing the right thing.

"I think it just underscores the importance of how we need to work together as a community to always be vigilant and watchful, and take things like this seriously," said Schultz.

The Mesa County Sheriff's Office would not say if Johnson was their only suspect in the case.

The District Attorney's office says once the investigation is complete, it is very likely more charges will be filed against Johnson. His bond was set at $100,000.

During Johnson's court appearance, his mother made a few brief remarks with tears in her eyes. She told the judge they did not have the resources to bail her son out and she "didn't know what was best" for him. She declined to comment to 11 News.

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