Four teenagers charged in BMS threats
Four Belen Middle School students have been arrested this week, and police say they are part of a group that made threats to "shoot up" the school.
The students, Kahleb Lucero and Mateo Jaquez, both 13, were arrested on Thursday, and are charged with assault and interfering with the educational process.
They were taken into custody a day after two other students, Lawrence Chavez, 13, and Alejandro Ortega, 14, were arrested Wednesday and charged with interfering with the educational process.
Each are accused of making violent comments, stating that they would shoot up the school on Friday. Two other current students at the school could also be charged in the case, said Belen Police Chief Dan Robb.
All of those arrested claim to be affiliated with the 18th Street Gang and are being held at the Juvenile Detention Center in Albuquerque.
One of the students made threats on the school's campus as late as Thursday, Robb said.
"Multiple witnesses" gave similar accounts of the alleged threats by the boys, which led to their arrest, the police chief said.
Sheila Armijo, the school's principal, said she first learned of the threats the afternoon of Oct. 5 after regular school hours when a student reported hearing the comments to a staff member. Those who were suspected were questioned by Belen Police Officer Mike Esquibel, the school's resource officer.
On Tuesday night, parents received voicemails about a special "Bring Your Parents to School" event on Friday instead of a specific message about threats. The next night, parents received a more detailed message describing the alleged violent comments.
Armijo said the move was geared to increase an adult presence at the school without "freaking out" parents.
"I didn't want to report rumors to parents," Armijo said. "I wanted to make sure I had pretty solid evidence of what was said and who exactly said it."
Chavez and Ortega were not on campus when the alleged threats occurred. Both were serving a suspension when they allegedly made the threats. Each had numerous disciplinary referrals in the past.
According to Armijo, Ortega was scheduled to return to school in January, while Chavez was slated to return to campus next fall. The principal didn't specify why the two had previously been suspended from school.
As a result of the alleged threats, Lucero and Jaquez have been suspended for up to 10 days until a hearing determines if and when they can return to school. Armijo would not say what she would recommend as punishment.
The principal told her staff to focus on classroom activities rather than comment on the threats.
Some parents were upset about not knowing about the threats until Wednesday. The next day, the school's staff was "inundated" by concerned parents, some of whose children didn't attend school on Friday.
This week's threats prompted parent Elaine Searles to kept her seventh-grade daughter home on Thursday. She said she plans on waiting until next week to allow her daughter to go back to school.
"(The parent day) was not for a happy day," Searles said. "It was for damage control."
Another parent, Stacie Guajardo, said she was relieved after she met with Armijo and Ron Marquez, the district's superintendent, on Thursday about the incident.
She said the communication between parents and school officials needs to get better and parents should be notified quicker if there are potential dangers.
"I feel a lot better," Guajardo said. "I just wish more parents would come to talk to (school officials) so that the communication improves."
Officials say the campus had more security, including undercover officers on campus, Friday. They have already added a permanent person to the school's security staff.
Jamie Jones, an eighth-grade social studies teacher, said she has focused on "keeping the educational process going" and has not talked to students about threats.
She said parents should feel safe about bringing their children to school on Friday.
"It's a normal day," Jones said on Thursday. "We'll just continue business as usual."
As a precaution, H. T. Jaramillo Community School students had recess indoors and kept all classrooms locked on Friday, since two of the suspects lived near the school, Marquez said.
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