Niagara Gazette

September 26, 2013

Falls teen faces terror charge for prank call

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

A Niagara Falls High School student has been charged with a terrorism-related offense for a prank phone call.

The 14-year-old student was arrested Thursday morning, one day after a threat of a mass shooting at a Falls school sent city police and school district officials into a emergency response that included dispatching every available patrol officer in the city to the local schools.

"(The prank) disrupted people's lives and put other people at risk," Falls Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto said on Thursday. "We take this very seriously. We dispatched every car to the schools and that left the streets bare."

Niagara County Sheriff's Office dispatchers contacted city police, around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, after receiving a 911 call threatening a mass shooting at the Gaskill Middle School. DalPorto said Juvenile Division Detectives Lori Alverez and Robert DeMarco were able to trace the cell phone call to Niagara Falls High School. 

"The detectives were able to, first, determine that it was an idle threat," DalPorto said, "and then identified the suspect."

The police superintendent said the quick work of the detectives helped to minimize the impact on students at Gaskill and the high school.

Following the incident, the school district placed an all-call to parents of students at the two schools. A schools spokeswoman called the threat "ill-conceived."

The suspect, who is not being identified because of his age, has been charged with making a terroristic threat, a felony count, and aggravated harassment. The case will be handled in Niagara County Family Court.

DalPorto said he hoped anyone else thinking of making a prank call will think twice now. 

"At 14, you don't want to be facing a felony charge. The only thing that will probably keep (the suspect) from going to jail is his age," DalPorto said. "This was a complete waste of police resources and I would hope no one else would try this."