CHARLESTON — An 18 year-old is behind bars after police say he threatened to kill a high school official. Police say Andrew Watts was arrested Friday for threats on the assistant principal’s life. Now he could be looking at felony charges.
It all started on social media. Police says watts made the comments in a public conversation on Facebook. A concerned parent caught wind of it and told the school who interpreted the comments as a threat on the assistant principal’s life. People in town say it’s unsettling to hear.
Andrew Watts’ criminal record could be marked with a felony before he even graduates high school. For some it’s a shock.
Debra Clark of Charleston says, “It’s pretty surprising to me in this small community. Charleston has a really great school district.”
For other’s it’s almost personal.
Mother Nichole Bassemier says, “It kind of made me think the children, are they safe going to the schools up here and stuff?”
She’s planning to send her two year-old to Charleston Schools. But she says things like this give her reason to worry.
“I just didn’t want to believe that some kid would want to kill other people. I don’t understand what would make him want to do that.”
Police say Watts was already suspended after he got into an altercation with another student in school. They say that’s what led him to make some inflammatory comments on Facebook. In those comments he mentions the assistant principal and murder. Watts was arrested off school grounds, but he told police he was referring to the person he’d had an altercation with earlier.
Bassemier says, “You see a lot of kids commit suicide over being bullied on social media. I honestly don’t like social media that much because people threaten people on it and everything.”
Charleston Police say just because you can say anything on social media doesn’t mean you should, especially when using words and phrases like “murder” and “got it planned out.”
“Threats can be sometimes taken very seriously, and you don’t know if you taken seriously or if someone is just kidding,” says Bassemier.
Police say Watts was charged with electronic threat against a school official. That’s a class 4 felony, but they say it could get dropped to a misdemeanor at some point. For now he sits in the Coles County Jail.
Charleston Police say this isn’t the first time a Charleston High School student has gotten in trouble with the law because of social media. They say a student sent a tweet about bombs and threatening the president a few years ago. They say the FBI got involved and the student was almost expelled.