Threat paranoia spreads to Kiona-Benton schools

Rumors prompt lock down of school grounds

— The outbreak of school threats has spread to another city in the Lower Yakima Valley.

On Wednesday, the Kiona-Benton School District in Benton City was added to the list that already includes Prosser, Grandview, Sunnyside and Granger.

But, according to Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher, the two-plus-hour lockdown was not caused by an actual threat.

Deputies were dispatched to Kiona-Benton High School, 1205 Horne Drive, at about 10:55 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, after school officials heard a “rumor” that a 15-year-old student was on campus with a gun, Hatcher said. When school employees looked for the student, he wasn’t in his classroom.

“... School officials contacted the emergency dispatch center and reported the information of this possible threat,” Hatcher said. “The high school was placed on lockdown,” as was the elementary-middle school campus 2.5 miles away.

Deputies were dispatched to both the high school and elementary-middle school campuses.

“Members of the Gang Team and detectives division began clearing the high school building/grounds for any possible threats and the named juvenile,” Hatcher said. “Deputies located and detained the named juvenile at about 11:26 a.m. on the roadway between the Ki Be Market and the high school.

“The high school was cleared, secured and taken out of lockdown status at about 1:15 p.m.”

Deputies interviewed the boy and other students, ultimately determining there had not been an actual threat, he said.

There wasn’t any actual threat, he said.

So, the student was released without incident.

“There will be no arrests or charges in this incident,” Hatcher said.

The Kiona-Benton School District is one of two where employees are trained to carry firearms on campus.

The other district is Toppenish, headed by Superintendent John Cerna.

Cerna was in Olympia on Wednesday to testify on a bill that would allow more schools to arm officials.


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