EPHRAIM—Threats a Snow College student made during a computer game to shoot up a school were picked up in Finland, transmitted to an international police agency in Washington, D.C., and passed on to the Ephraim Police Department, leading to the student’s arrest last week.
According to Michael Lee, acting Ephraim City attorney, Maximus Johnson, 18, of Elk Ridge, Utah County, is alleged to have stated, “I’m literally going to shoot up a school,” during a chat with other players over the Internet in a Clash-of-Clans game on Monday, Aug. 29.
“And these days, you’ve got to take every threat like that seriously,” said Kevin Daniels, Sanpete County attorney.
A report about the threats, disseminated to police agen- cies in Sanpete, Juab and Utah counties about 1 p.m., led Juab County schools to implement a “lockout” for a little more than 30 minutes because of the potential of the suspect traveling from Sanpete County through Juab County on his way to con- ceivable commit a shooting at a school in southern Utah County.
The Nephi Police Department and Juab County Sheriff ’s Office, with help from the Utah Highway Patrol, sent extra officers to nine schools containing 3,000 students.
In a message to the community after the incident, Nephi Police Chief Michael Morgan explained a lockout is different from a lockdown. In a lockout, students inside buildings go about their school activities as normal. But no one can come into or leave the buildings.
In a lock-down, students shelter in place inside classrooms and all classroom and exterior door in buildings are locked.
Neither the North Sanpete nor South Sanpete districts took any special action. The North Sanpete School District emailed parents at 2:26 p.m. stating, “This afternoon, we received information of threats to two schools in Utah County. Law enforcement has detained the person who made the threats. North Sanpete schools were not involved with the threat. Your students are safe and no lockdown was issued.”
Lee said the Clash of Clan game is owned by a Finnish video game company, Supercell. Johnson’s threat was flagged in the company’s chat system. Supercell informed the Washington, D.C. office of Interpol, an international police organization serving 194 countries.
“Interpol’s Washington, D.C. branch forwarded the warning to local Ephraim law enforcement officials because the IP address and access records at the time (of the threat) were registering within Ephraim’s city limits,” Lee said.
Lee, the prosecutor in the case for the Ephraim City Justice Court, said as far as he is aware, Johnson did not mention any specific schools.
When the Utah County Sheriff ’s Office learned about the threats and learned Johnson’s home was in Elk Ridge, located on the east bench of southern Utah County, they went to his parents’ home to try to gather more information.
However, KUTV quoted Utah County Sheriff ’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon as also saying the suspect never threatened specific schools.
About 2 p.m. on Aug. 29, local officers arrested Johnson as he was walking to class. He was arrested on a Class B misdemeanor for making “a threat of terrorism causing official or volunteer action” and booked into the Sanpete County Jail.
In his message to the Juab community, Chief Morgan of the Nephi City Police said on the day of the incident, he received information that the suspect was in Sanpete County, that he had made threats to schools in Utah County that were geographically close to Juab County, and that he had access to vehicles to potentially travel from Sanpete County through Juab County on the way to Utah County.
“With these basic facts, this is the reason our team made the decision to bring extra safety to our schools until the suspect was detained,” he said.