Florida teen linked to Portage HS threat, others in U.S. & Canada

A Florida teen has been linked to a recent unfounded threat at Portage High School.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 12:50 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:32 PM CST
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PORTAGE, Wis. (WMTV) – A Florida teen has been linked to a recent unfounded threat at Portage High School.

In a statement, the Portage Police Department indicated the 15-year-old boy is also the target of investigation into similar incidents across the country and into Canada. Portage investigators are working with law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border to have the teen taken into custody and booked on counts of terroristic threats and swatting stemming from the Jan. 3 threat.

“There’s so much knowledge base here that this young man has and is utilizing for the wrong reasons,” Captain Daniel Garrigan told NBC15.

The incident put the high school on lockdown after the district received a call referring to a possible active shooter threat, District Administrator Joshua Sween explained at the time. Police were alerted and the school was searched before they lifted the lockdown after determining there was no active threat.

A Florida teen has been linked to a recent unfounded threat at Portage High School.

Three days later, the police department announced a 15-year-old girl was also arrested in Wisconsin for the Jan. 3 threat. At the time of her arrest, police indicated they expected her to be charged with terroristic threat and swatting, both with party to a crime modifiers. Garrigan confirmed that the two 15-year-olds knew each other, likely from social media or games.

“I don’t know what her real intent or plan was, but it certainly is suggestive that maybe she didn’t want to come back to school on the first day back,” Garrigan said. The school district’s new semester began Jan. 3.

The boy found “humor and pride in doing this, that he could get away with it,” Garrigan added.

He said, “It’s quite sad and rather sick that we live in an environment and in a time that people have to worry about sending their kids to school and dealing with these types of traumatic events.”

In announcing the Florida teen may be connected to the January threat, the police department listed him as potentially involved in additional swatting incidents in the states of Indiana, North Carolina, and Washington, as well as in Ontario, Canada, Portage police stated. One of the threats involved a home while the rest were directed at school districts. The Sarasota Co. Sheriff’s Office told NBC15 News’ sister station WWSB, they had no information to release on the case.

While the Portage Police Department is trying to secure the Sarasota, Florida, teen’s arrest for the incident earlier this month, investigators are eyeing him as possibly connected to an Oct. 20 threat in Portage. On that day, threats were reported at many other school districts in Wisconsin – including in Madison – along with even more across the country.

The Madison Police Department said Wednesday it doesn’t think the October threats are connected to the Florida teen, but Public Information Officer Steph Fryer said investigators are still looking into this.

Garrigan also said Portage police are looking into that possible connection, but he said the criminal methods used in the two scenarios are different.

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