ConVal student accused of online threat is being held without bail

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, November 12, 2018 5:50PM

A ConVal Regional High School student is being held in preventive detention following a bail hearing in the Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester Thursday afternoon.

Anthony Wheeler, 18, of Antrim, is one of three ConVal students arrested for the alleged creation and dissemination of a social media post that caused school officials to cancel school Wednesday due to the perceived threat of the post.

Wheeler and two juveniles have been charged with criminal threatening-related charges in relation to the threat, an Antrim police press release said Thursday morning.

Court documents show Wheeler has been charged with three felony-level counts of criminal threatening.

During Wheeler’s Thursday bail hearing Assistant County Attorney Patrice Casian argued that the content of the post outweighs the fact that Wheeler has no criminal record.

Casian said the Snapchat post featured one of the students holding two realistic-looking firearms with the caption, “Don’t go to school Wednesday.”

One gun appears to be a long rifle with a scope and the other appears to be a handgun with a long barrel and an extended magazine, court documents said.

“The threat is extremely malicious and should be taken seriously,” Casian said. “… We don’t want to look back after today and ask ourselves ‘how could this happen’ if something did happen. We don’t want to look back and say ‘why didn’t we take this seriously?’”

Antrim Police Sgt. Brian Lord said Monday that police have seized the firearms used in the photo. Lord declined to comment about whether the firearms were real or not, citing an ongoing investigation.

Wheeler’s name was in the top left hand corner of the post, indicating that it was his account that was used to post the threat. Wheeler was not the person featured in the post, Casian said.

Given the recent shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, and the photo’s striking connections to the 1999 Columbine shooting – the subject of the photo was holding guns and wearing a trench coat, glasses, and a hat similar to what was used and worn by the Columbine shooters – Casian said the threat needed to be taken seriously.

“Everything is emulating what happened on that day,” Casian said. “This isn’t something that’s a joke, this is something that must be taken seriously.”

Casian said the two minors are being handled at the district court level.

The probable cause affidavit on file at the superior court says one of the minors admitted that they had all smoked marijuana the night the photo was taken. All three admitted to being involved in taking the photo and posting it on Snapchat.

“I think we have a combination of threats and warnings about hurting or killing people, we have the use of drugs and we also have his involvement with others who share the same ideas and threatening behaviors,” Casian said. “All of this is extremely concerning for the state and we must take steps towards protecting the community.”

Wheeler’s defense attorney argued that he should be released to his guardian – his grandmother – on personal recognizance bail as he has no prior criminal record, and because Wheeler’s main connection to the threat is that his name was on the photo.

His defense attorney also said Wheeler has documented mental health issues and has an individualized education program (IEP) in school.

Judge Gillian L. Abramson sided with Casian and declined to set bail for Wheeler’s release. “The state has proved by clear and convincing evidence that he poses a credible threat to the community,” Abramson said, in response to the defense’s argument.

The threat was first reported to the Peterborough Police Department early Wednesday morning by a ConVal High School parent.

After an investigation, the decision was made to close down all 11 schools in the district. Casian said the closures affected more than 2,200 students and their parents, as well as around 500 staff members.

School and police officials said later Wednesday that schools would be reopening on Thursday and that the threat had been “addressed.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated Monday, Nov. 12, at 5:40 p.m.