Few additional details were released at this afternoon’s press conference by members of the Multi-Jurisdictional Threat Assessment Team regarding the two sixth-grade students who’d plotted to shoot up South Cumberland Elementary School on the last day of school.
What we do know is this: Both students are charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and are being held in the Cumberland County Juvenile Detention Facility. Out of concerns over possibly jeopardizing the ongoing investigation, authorities could not elaborate on the students’ names, ages or genders, or whether either had had previous (or ongoing) behavioral or mental-health issues.
Public Information Officer Gary Howard (center) makes an opening statement. From left to right: Director of Schools Janet Graham, Cumberland County Schools Emergency Management Director Bo Magnusson, District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway, City of Crossville Master Police Officer Jon Tollett, Cumberland County Sheriff Casey Cox, City of Crossville Chief of Police Jessie Brooks. Photo courtesy of Heather Mullinix, Crossville Chronicle.
District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway said the two students, who appeared before Juvenile Court Judge Larry Warner this morning, are being held in custody until their hearing. They will be charged as juveniles; there are no plans to try them as adults. “I’m confident there will be a mental-health evaluation,” Dunaway said, stressing the need to get all the facts in order before taking what he called “appropriate action.”
After an opening statement from Public Information Officer Sergeant Gary Howard, Director of Schools Janet Graham briefly discussed school-system policy regarding such circumstances, but did not directly answer a question regarding whether the two students would be permitted to return to school for the remainder of the academic year. She said law enforcement would have to deal with the charges against the two and impose any consequences; then the disciplinary-hearing authorities would need to take up the matter of the students’ possible reinstatement.
Graham said the situation is one educators never want to have to deal with. “It always makes you sick to the pit of your stomach,” she told the assembled media.
Cumberland County Sheriff Casey Cox agreed. He made a heartfelt statement about the situation, noting his own kids went to South Cumberland Elementary School. He lauded the efforts of the school resource officer who got the investigative ball rolling. “I am very, very proud of Deputy Anthony Loshbough. He’s a caring and compassionate guy,” Cox said, adding the SRO can be firm when he needs to be, but has “the heart of a teddy bear.”
Cox added Loshbough has developed a strong relationship with the students at South Elementary, built on trust, which makes the students comfortable going to him with their concerns.
When asked about security at schools throughout the county, Cox stressed there are SROs in each of the schools. “They’re there today, they’ll be there tomorrow and they’ll be there on the last day [of school],” he said, adding, “SROs do not leave their post unless there’s someone to relieve them.”