A 16-year-old in California wound up on a trip to juvenile hall after an Instagram account with a poorly chosen name and rumors boiled over, bringing in the local police to sort out the issue.
Roseville, in Placer County is in Northern California near Sacramento. A city of some 128,382, it was named by CNN Money's "Best Places to Live" study in 2008 as one of the Top 100 of "America's best small cities in the country, for its low crime rate, high paying tech industry jobs, and overall quality of living.
In short, it is kind of a nice place.
One of the local high schools in the area is Roseville High, with some 2,000 students and alumni that include actress Megan Dodds and five-time Olympic medalist (including 4 gold) Evelyn Ashford.
On Sept. 21, Roseville Police started getting calls about events going on in the halls of the school. A photo found online the night before was in high circulation, leading to wild rumors of a threatened attack on campus in the age of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter burned from one side of campus to the other and put parents on freak out mode.
"We've received a number of calls and messages from concerned parents about a rumor being spread through social media about threats of violence tomorrow on the Roseville High School campus," noted the Roseville Police Department. " At this point it's only an unsubstantiated rumor, but we're actively investigating it this evening with the help and cooperation of RHS administration."
The department sent officers to the school just in case and detailed investigators to follow up on the rumors through the night.
By morning, there seemed to have been a development in the investigation.
On the morning of the 22nd, RPD was hopeful enough to put out a statement saying, "...with the help of Roseville High School's administration, officers talked to numerous students last night, and made a few home visits. Our officers did not find any evidence of a credible threat to the school."
And by the evening had dropped cuffs on a young man.
"Late this afternoon, Roseville Police detectives arrested a 16-year-old male, a former Roseville High School student, on suspicion of making criminal threats," reads a statement posted near midnight by the agency.
"The former student, who lives in unincorporated Placer County, is suspected of setting up an Instagram account called 'Coming4uRHS' and disseminating it in order to spread panic and fear at the high school. Widely available photos of guns and other images from the Internet were used to populate the account. The former student is being taken to Placer County Juvenile Hall."
The Instagram account has since been deleted and school officials have been making efforts to put the #### back in the horse since then.
Megan Goudy with the Roseville Joint Union High School District confirmed that, "that this was a misunderstanding started by students discussing air soft guns in the hallway and being overheard by other students who then spread rumors, which led to social media panic."
Which was confirmed in a statement released to media that included MTV News (!) from Executive Director of Personnel Services for the Roseville Joint Union High School District Brad Basham:
"[W]hile walking in the hallway, a student overheard two other students talking about guns and shooting people. Unfortunately, this information was not immediately communicated to school authorities, but instead was shared with other students and posted on social media sites. Following a thorough investigation involving the Roseville Police Department and site administrators, we have determined the students were talking about the use of airsoft guns for recreational off campus activities. It is the belief of local law enforcement and school authorities that the picture of guns posted on social media was an unrelated and opportunistic attempt to cause additional fear."
So take that as a lesson in control of your own HUMINT and what you put out on social media about your airsofting-- should you cause police to burn lean muscle tissue into the night over something you said, posted, or wrote that may be taken out of context and blown out of proportion by the social media rumor mill.
Moreover, be safe out there!