Threats against Lee County high school take emotional toll, even days later

Reporter: Anika Henanger Writer: Jackie Winchester
Published: Updated:
Deputies respond to a text message threat at Gateway Charter High School. (Credit: WINK News)

Threats were taken so seriously at a Lee County school that the response terrified kids and forced them to learn from home the following week. Now, parents say they feel safer with their children in sight, but the lockdown is taking an emotional toll on them.

Investigators are still working to find out who made the threats via text message, which caused such a commotion at Gateway Charter School that students were distracted in the days following.

Walsh doesn’t like to think about last Friday when deputies with guns and search dogs entered the campus.

“It’s a tough thing to talk about, you know; he told me how legitimately scared he was. He thought he was not coming home that day,” Walsh said.

Waiting outside while his son was locked down in a classroom, Walsh didn’t know it then, but all the chaos happened because someone sent a pair of text messages: one threatening a mass shooting and another aimed at a staff member.

“The sights and the sounds, it was a little scary knowing that my son was inside the school and you couldn’t get him out.”

Walsh thanks God that his son and everyone else got out.

“Every minute seemed like an hour; it was agonizing.”

The agony continues today. While his son deals with online schoolwork, Walsh is dealing with the reality of no arrests being made.

“It makes me nervous as a parent, because the threat is 100% the same as it was Thursday and Friday. I don’t know if they’re any closer or not but I know the threats still exist.”

The Walsh family is trying to stay in the moment, trying not to think too hard about Thursday.

“I don’t have any comfort, and letting my kids go back to school tomorrow or the day after until I hear that the person who made those threats was arrested.”

Walsh won’t have to worry about his son going back to school until after Thanksgiving break. The school announced Wednesday afternoon that online learning will continue Thursday and Friday.

As for the investigation, Crime Stoppers announced a $3,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who sent the threatening messages.

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