Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
For more information about Jo, check out her Linked-in profile, as well as her Facebook fan page, Instagram and Google+
Thursday, January 3, 2013
'We very well may have dodged a very large bullet here'
Posted: Sunday, December 23, 2012
Weapons seized at Cypress Ave.
A 14-year-old Richboro boy and his mother have been arrested after two semi-automatic handguns were found on the teen’s nightstand and he made “credible” threats forcing the shutdown of Council Rock High School South on Friday, police said.
Lizabeth Donohoe, 50, was arrested for allegedly giving her son access to the guns, which belonged to her grandfather, police said.
Vincent Mario Russo Jr., 48, of 500 block of West Street Road in Feasterville — identified as the boy’s father — was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of the administration of justice after he tried to interfere with the arrest of his son and Donohoe, police said Friday.
“We very well may have dodged a very large bullet here,” Northampton police Chief Barry Pilla said Friday.
The teen was charged with terrorist threats and possession of a firearm by a minor and sent to Bucks County’s juvenile detention center in Edison, Pilla said. He likely will remain there at least a week, police said.
Late Friday afternoon, Detective Peter Stark said that police recovered items of “evidentiary value” from the homes of Russo and Donohoe. But the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office would need to confirm if the items would result in additional criminal charges being filed, Stark said.
Council Rock Superintendent Mark Klein declined to provide any information about the boy.
The 2,200-student high school in Holland was closed Friday after police received credible evidence about a threat that was to be carried out at the school, officials said.
As a precaution, police conducted a security sweep of the sprawling high school complex, surrounded by Holland, Middle Holland and Newtown-Richboro roads. Police used K-9 units from Lower Makefield, Bensalem and Bristol Township police to search. They found “nothing of evidentiary value,” Pilla said.
“The police department is confident based on the investigation, which included multiple interviews, the juvenile was acting alone and the threat against the Council Rock community has been eliminated,” Pilla added.
Police said the teen allegedly made a verbal threat to bring weapons to school and kill and harm people, Pilla said. That threat was conveyed to an adult by another student shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday, he said, triggering the school district and police into action.
Police went to Donohoe’s home in the 50 block of Cypress Drive on Thursday evening to serve an arrest warrant on her son. They asked Donohoe if any weapons were in the house, and she replied that her grandfather’s guns were there, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Donohoe then led police to her son’s room where they found the unloaded, but functional, 9mm semi-automatic weapons in plain view on top of his nightstand, according to police. The weapons were confiscated and the search stopped pending a warrant.
While in the home, police said they observed numerous Airsoft weapons, replica firearms that fire plastic pellets using compressed gas or electric and/or spring-driven pistons, assorted knives and machetes, and swords.
An officer also detected a strong odor of marijuana in the house and asked Donohoe if she had the drug inside the house, according to court records.
“I’ll show you,” she replied and then led the officer to a night table in her room. There, court records show, officers found a large white bag with a large clear plastic bag containing suspected marijuana and rolling papers.
Donohoe, an unemployed legal assistant, was charged with possession of a firearm by a minor, a third-degree felony, and misdemeanor endangering the welfare of children and possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal use. She was arraigned before Penndel District Court Judge Daniel Baranoski early Friday and sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $100,000 bail.
Baranoski also put as a condition of bail that Donohoe not possess firearms.
Superintendent Klein said he hoped that rather than live in fear, the community took solace and comfort in the fact that students reported the threat and police officers did their jobs well and the district’s students arrived at school safely.
“We will always be concerned about evils that permeate our community. No school community is immune from this type of thing,” Klein added.
Council Rock wasn’t the only area district in which guns were the subject of concern this week. On Friday morning, Neshaminy School District officials said rumors of a student bringing a gun to school were investigated by the district and police and determined to not be credible.
“We are aware of the rumors regarding a student bringing a gun to school. The situation was investigated by the NHS administration and law enforcement and deemed to be ‘not credible,’ ” the district posted on its website. “Unfortunately the rumor has continued, fueled mostly by unrelated events, the Sandy Hook tragedy and the pending ‘End of the World’ on 12/21/12. It moved to social media sites Thursday afternoon and just took off.”
Neshaminy officials contacted police and said they would have “additional resources devoted to NHS on Friday to help ease student, staff and parent concerns.”
In the Lehigh Valley, a high school canceled classes Friday after a bomb threat was made a week after a gunman killed more than two dozen people in a shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school.
Emmaus High School officials don’t believe the threat is credible.
Police in suburban Pittsburgh said they arrested two teens after a pair of threats of a shooting at Hopewell High School on Friday. They were released to their parents.
Specific information about the Council Rock South incident is also available on the Council Rock School District website, crsd.org.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: jciavaglia@phillyBurbs.com; Twitter: @jociavaglia