Mart Independent School District officials are expressing concern with how police responded to a student’s social media posts Tuesday night threatening the high school.
The student was arrested on a terroristic threat charge Wednesday night, but Mart police did not provide a patrol presence at the high school Wednesday or initially take the school’s report seriously, Mart ISD Superintendent Betsy Burnett said.
“When the threat was initially taken to Mart PD (on Tuesday), they did not feel like it was enough to respond to,” Burnett said. “The following morning we were promised that we’d have some extra patrol units there at the school and we had none.”
The school board has called a special meeting for 7 a.m. Monday to discuss the possibility of sending a letter of complaint to the city regarding the Mart Police Department.
Mart Police Chief Albert Cavazos arrested Jerry Donald Shepherd, 18, on Wednesday night, about 24 hours after Burnett called Cavazos to report the threat. It appears Snapchat videos posted Tuesday show the student pointing a handgun, then a rifle at the camera and include text threatening retaliation for being removed from school athletic and band programs.
According to an arrest affidavit for Shepherd, the post “caused a vast majority of parents and educators to become extremely frightened and some in a state of panic.”
Burnett said she struggled with the local police department to act and investigate the post before the arrest was made, and that the chief made no attempts to step up enforcement efforts around the school Wednesday.
“When we had no police presence, I called the county to see if we could get some help from them, but since our police department had opened an investigation and did not request that assistance themselves, I could not get all the assistance that I think we should have had,” Burnett said. “They did send a patrolling officer, which was fantastic, but that is all we really had.”
School Board President Frank “Pete” Rowe said he also expressed concerns to the police chief, who did come to the school after the school day started Thursday.
“We have a tremendous responsibility to the people of the school district to protect their children, and our greatest responsibility as an educator is to protect the kids in today’s society as safety is the most important aspect of education,” Rowe said. “I am not sure that everybody on our team here in the community takes it as seriously as we do.”
Attempts to reach Cavazos Thursday were unsuccessful. Mart City Manager Kevin Schaffer, who also is a school board member, also did not return messages Thursday.
Shepherd was released from McLennan County Jail on a personal recognizance bond Thursday afternoon.
Rowe said while the arrest is subject to the discretion of law enforcement, in his opinion, the school district’s concern should have be made a priority.
“The fact that not one police officer showed up to protect that school, protect that student body, that is uncalled for,” Rowe said. “That needs to be fixed and I’m sure it will be.”