SEQUIM — A 17-year-old who allegedly made threats against fellow students, which led to a brief lockdown of two Sequim schools, has pleaded not guilty to a felony harassment charge.
The teen, who is not identified because he is a minor, issued his plea in Clallam County Juvenile Court on Thursday.
The Sequim student, in custody since March 24, was appointed defense attorney Suzanne Hayden, who sought for the student’s release. Hayden said her client was willing to take anger management sessions and participate in intensive outpatient programs.
The 17-year-old faces up to a year of probation, up to 150 hours community service, up to a $500 fine and up to 30 days of detention for the charge.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tracey Lassus said she had concerns over the release of the defendant, saying the alleged crime resulted in a school lockdown, that there had been school truancy, the defendant was not following rules at home, not living at home and allegedly using marijuana.
However, Lassus said the defendant previously had success in drug court, a youth rehabilitation program.
“It is unusual, but I’d make the offer of drug court again,” she said.
Hayden agreed to the possible term, and Lassus said they’d do some analysis to see if it would work.
If not, the defendant could face trial on the harassment charge.
Judge Simon Barnhart agreed to the potential terms and set another hearing for 9 a.m. Thursday in Juvenile Court.
Barnhart maintained bail at $2,500 for the defendant and ordered no contact if released with one of the teens allegedly threatened.
Alleged threats made by the defendant led Sequim School District leaders to place Sequim High School and Olympic Peninsula Academy into a modified lockdown for a few hours on the morning of March 24.
Detective Sgt. Darrell Nelson with Sequim Police Department said the lockdown was done “out of an abundance of caution,” and they didn’t believe there was any danger to students or staff. The defendant was arrested shortly before the lockdown ended, police reported.
Officer Daniel Martinez said in his probable cause statement that school officials contacted him at 7:17 p.m. March 23 with reports of a student threatening to shoot three other students.
Martinez said one of the threatened students allegedly received Snapchat messages that day that included the defendant threatening to “run up on him.”
The student told Martinez that meant the defendant was going to shoot him, and he believed the defendant had access to firearms through a friend, according to court documents.
The student said the defendant was allegedly hostile towards him because of his friendship with another student who was previously associated with the defendant’s group of friends, court documents say.
He also told police his friend was affiliated with the defendant’s associated gang, but he switched to another one and was beaten up three times over a few months by the defendant and friends, according to court documents.
When interviewed by police, the threatened student’s friend said he was not involved in the messages until he was shown screenshots; he confirmed he hung out with the defendant’s group but was never made a member of their gang, and he later joined another gang, court documents say.
For this, he was targeted as a “traitor” and beaten up by the rival group, Martinez wrote in his report, adding that this student said by fall 2021 he was no longer associated with either group.
Another student was interviewed by police and said the defendant didn’t like him because of his friendship with the other two students and for standing up for them, court documents say.
This student said he has no gang affiliation and he shared screenshots from Snapchat with police between him and the defendant with alleged violence towards him, such as, “I’ll straight up mess your world up tomorrow, just wait; I’ll catch you slippin at school. I got people, yo won’t see me, but I’ll see you.”
Other messages allegedly written by the defendant alluded to violence and murder, too, court documents say.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at email@example.com.