Courier staff writer
CENTER — A Facebook post threatening the Center Consolidated School District landed Center High School junior Dyland Chencho Garcia-Santa Cruz, 18, in the Saguache County Jail on Tuesday night.
Center Consolidated School District Superintendent George Welsh said in an interview Wednesday afternoon Garcia-Santa Cruz will remain in custody pending further investigation and the district attorney is considering felony charges pending the outcome of the investigation.
Garcia-Santa Cruz wrote the post during a chat with a friend who was venting about having to serve detention and wanting to leave the school district, according to Welsh and a Facebook screen shot.
“yeah but if u do im gunna do a massacre in that school like in massachussets juz watch if u leave,” Garcia-Santa Cruz wrote, according to the screen shot. “u know im crazy enough to do it ...”
Later on in the chat, he wrote, addressing another classmate,”...get the guns first room is diegos.”
“Diego” is the first name of a Center High School teacher, and after another teacher saw his name, administration was contacted and then the Center Police Department (CPD), Welsh said. The department located Garcia-Santa Cruz with his guardians in their Del Norte home, and questioned him in Center before he was arrested for his threatening act.
“Regarding the long term outlook in relation to this incident, if somehow evidence does come forth showing the student was intending to do what he said he would do we can rest assured that the district attorney will punish him to the full extent of the law,” Welsh said. “If it turns out he simply made a seriously irresponsible comment, as appears to be the case at this point, we as a district will work to ensure he understands the enormity of his actions, receives appropriate consequences, and gets the services he needs to serve out his punishment and begin moving forward with his life in a positive direction.”
Following Garcia-Santa Cruz’ arrest Tuesday night, Welsh sent out a mass message in Spanish and English to the community through Facebook, email and the district’s automated calling service to dispel rumors and prepare students and staff for the police presence that would be on campus Wednesday morning. In spite of his attempt to ensure the district was under no threat, he said at least 40 students out of 600 were absent because either they or their parents did not feel safe.
“It affected us today,” Welsh said. “It was intimidating to all of the folks that were here. We had done all that we could communicate what was going on.”
He delivered a second message Wednesday evening to further communicate how the district is handling the situation.
“...We will also want to use this incident as a teachable moment for the rest of our students, specifically helping them to understand that making such threats to individuals or groups of people, orally or through digital means, is simply wrong and can also lead to a whole heap of trouble,” Welsh wrote.
“As we look toward the future, I have made it clear to the Center Police Department that their presence on our campus is always welcome. Police Chief (William) Lucero apologized to me for what may have appeared to be an excessive show of force on campus this morning (regarding long rifles and numbers of officers), but I trust he knows how to do his job better than I know how to do his job. We have agreed that a couple of CPD officers will be visiting our building tomorrow (Thursday), and as a permanent practice continuing long into the future.”
In regards to Garcia-Santa Cruz’ future as a Center Viking, Welsh said that also depends on the outcome of the investigation. As of Wednesday night, his cell phone, emails and his home had been searched without turning up evidence to support his threatening post.
“It is all about school work,” Welsh said about the communications. “There is nothing about plotting to blow up the school. People I have gone to on campus said the kid doesn’t threaten them in any way. It feels like he was trying to impress these kids. It very much looks like a stupid thing the kid did. You can throw a kid like this away, but we are going to try not to.”