3 Illinois kids accused of making threats to schools in Florida

Ocala Police started investigating after students from Forest, Vanguard, and North Marion high schools received texts from strangers threatening to shoot up the school.

Threats like those have sent schools into lockdowns as Marion County SWAT officers flooded into classrooms multiple times in recent months.

Paul Bloom, the Public Information Officer with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, says those threats are a serious crime affecting entire communities. 

"Now a parent doesn’t want their child in school. So, now this parent is not going to their job. So now an employer is missing an employee," Bloom gave as an example. "It's a community-wide ripple effect."

Reports from the Ocala Police Department explain that to track down who sent the texts, a detective followed IP addresses and got investigative subpoenas to review call records. Those linked to three kids, ages 12, 13, and 14, in Peoria, Illinois, authorities said.  All three were arrested.

"We are grateful for the cooperation of Peoria Police and the great investigative work done by our detectives. Ensuring school safety is our top priority. We take threats like this very seriously, and we will hold those who seek to cause panic accountable for their actions. If students or parents ever encounter such a threat, please contact law enforcement immediately."


The Sheriff’s Office has the same sentiment about taking crimes seriously.

"It's very serious to us from a criminal aspect," said Bloom. "But also just in general terms and the community as a whole, we're all affected by it."

Marion County is on track to have more school threats this school year than in years past.

In the 2021 – 2022 school year, there were 65 threats and three arrests made. All three of the people caught were minors.

Last school year, there were 64 threats in total, and one person was arrested – also a juvenile.

This school year, there have already been 61 threats made. As of last week, three minors and one adult had been arrested.

Now, there are three more kids facing felonies.

"We want to make sure that every child knows if you're going to make that threat, then there are going to be consequences. It doesn't matter if you live here. It doesn't matter if you live in another state," said Bloom. "We go far and wide to find you, and we will find you."