Police respond to unrelated calls involving suspended student, boys posting videos of weapons, investigation of sexual assault, threats made online

Editor's note: A version of this story appeared in the print edition of the Spotlight on 3/2/18. The story has since been updated to reflect the arrest of a high school student that was made on Friday morning, after the Spotlight's press deadline.

UPDATED: Five students at St. Helens High School were arrested this week in four separate incidents.

The students, four of which were identified as male minors and one was a female minor, were each taken into custody by St. Helens Police Department officers following unrelated incidents occurring between Monday, Feb. 26, and Friday, March 2.

On Monday, St. Helens School Resource Officer Jeremy Howell took a student into custody when the boy came to school after previously being suspended. The student was later released to a parent at home, according to Police Chief Terry Moss.

During the incident, however, a second student intervened. The intervening student became combative and began a physical confrontation with other St. Helens police officers assisting at the scene. The student also made verbal threats directed toward the school and officers, Moss added.

One officer received minor injuries as the student was taken into custody. The student taken to the Cowlitz County Youth Detention Facility in Longview, Washington. Interim Principal Ted Zehr issued a statement to parents the next day explaining the situation.

On Tuesday, several officers were assigned to the school after they were alerted to a video on social media showing two boys in possession of a gun, Moss explained. Students reported hearing a conversation about a school shooting late last week, but did not report hearing the threat that day. When the students saw the video, they alerted officers. Moss said the students' response to "see something, say something," was the appropriate thing to do.

Officers later identified the students who were arrested and taken to the youth detention facility. Officers retrieved a handgun from the home of one of the students, Moss said, but said the gun was never on school grounds.

Wednesday afternoon, SHPD officers arrested a male student accused of sexually assaulting a female student. Moss said the incident did not take place at school. The suspect was identified by an officer investigating the assault who interviewed the student prior to taking him into custody. The student was also taken to the youth detention center in Washington.

Moss said it is highly unusual for the police department to make so many arrests at the school over such a short period of time.

"We've been at the school three days in a row arresting students, which is unusual. It's not usual and it should not be an indicator about safety at our school," Moss said. "Generally speaking, our students and campuses are well-behaved and, generally, it is a safe place to be."

Friday morning, St. Helens police officers arrested a female minor who posted threatening comments directed towards the high school online. Police received a tip about the threats through a tip sharing service called ShareOregon and investigated to find out who owned the account. The student did not have any weapons or credible way to carry out the threat, Moss explained. The girl was also taken to the juvenile detention center.

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