Threat prompts PSD lockdown

Zoriah Erin McCrae

The Polk School District took a threat made to a student online seriously enough to put schools on lockdown as the month began, and took one student into custody after schools were released well after dismissal time.

Rockmart Police announced late last week that they arrested and charged 17-year-old Zoriah Erin McCrae of Rockmart on two counts of terroristic threats and acts around 8:30 p.m. on March 1. Rockmart Police Chief Keith Sorrells said she was also going to face charges of Disrupting Public School.

McCrae is expected to face additional charges as press time was coming up over the weekend. More will be announced as soon as they become available.

No explanation was yet forthcoming from law enforcement as to a motive for why McCrae sent messages through Snapchat last week to another student threatening a shooting at Cedartown and Rockmart High Schools.

School officials and law enforcement were quick to respond to a threat earlier in the day when the schools went into a lockdown situation as part of procedures for responding to the social media posting brought to administrators attention by students.

Polk School District's campuses remained on lockdown through late afternoon until around 4:15 p.m. following the usual dismissal, when officials finally felt confiident enough to lift the lockdown and allow students to go home.

Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome also reported following the lifting of security measures that they took a male person of interest into custody for questioning, and the investigation continues into the incident.

The threat of a shooting was sent to a student via social media through an account name known only as "MAGG." That student then sought help identifying the sender, who threatened a school shooting at both Cedartown and Rockmart high schools. WGAA 1340 AM's Andrew Carter shared the screenshot made of the threat with the Standard Journal.

That threat read "I'm going to shoot your school up tomorrow (Thursday, March 1) around 1:30 so be ready" from a poster that went by "MAGG."

"MAGG" additionally said "In Polk County" when questioned by the student who received the post, and followed up "I'm shooting up Cedartown high school and Rockmart."

MAGG later stated "why did you screenshot" when the student asked for assistance in identifying the sender.

Police were quick to respond, getting local investigators on the case during the afternoon lockdown along with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome and Sorrells said their officers were dispatched to the schools to provide security during the full lockdown of the district.

Sorrells said in a press release announcing McCrae's arrest late last week that local agencies stepped up to help with the local investigators working together, along with state help and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The threat came just a week following the school district's posting of a letter to the community about their efforts to improve school security with the help of local, state and federal law enforcement officials.

Her continued request to parents and students are to report any threats made against a student or school to teachers and administrators as soon as it happens, and to have age-appropriate conversations with their children about school security, cautions about social media postings and use, and to avoid cyber-bullying of any kind and report its occurrence as well.

She also thanked parents and guardians for their understanding of the additional time students spent in school during the lockdown, and also thanked law enforcement for ensuring that students and faculty were safe and secure during the incident.

Polk School District's encounter with the threat of violence came just a day after the area was shocked by the events at Dalton High School, when teacher Randal Davidson barricaded himself in his classroom and later fired a single shot with a handgun through a window.

The shot sent student in a scramble out into the rain, or they hunkered down in a darkened gym locker room, authorities said.

Davidson was taken into custody without incident after a 30to 45-minute standoff with officers, Dalton police spokesman Bruce Frazier said. A teacher since 2004, Davidson also serves as the play-by-play announcer for the Dalton High Catamounts football team, which has a storied past as one of the best high school football programs in Georgia history.

Police noted that Davidson didn't appear to want to hurt the students or faculty. He fired the gun at an exterior window when the principal tried to enter the classroom during the Feb. 28 incident.