By Annette Christie
Threat investigated at Coloma Schools
A letter from Coloma Schools Superintendent Pete Bush was sent to parents late Tuesday, April 17 regarding a threat to the school.
“The high school administration was alerted to a potential threat today when a student found a piece of paper that had been discarded on the floor in the school hallway. The student, as they should, alerted the teacher who in turn alerted the administration. Since that time we have been working with the Coloma Township Police to investigate the potential threat and determine its level of credibility,” the letter said.
Bush explained that after completing the investigation Tuesday evening, school administration and the police department concluded that it was not a credible threat. The paper contained information that had been researched on the internet regarding the biggest school shootings in the United States. That information contained no threats or references to Coloma High School. It then appears this paper was discarded or shared with others over the last several days. At that time someone added the name Coloma High School on the bottom of the paper and there were multiple dates that were then added, scribbled out, and new dates added next to them. It appears that multiple students have seen this paper, and possibly added or scribbled out the dates. There was no specific reference to any shooting or violence at Coloma High School. Any student that has been questioned and admits to having seen the paper has shared that it was just a joke that was being circulated and there was no specific threat or intent.
Bush said, “We do not see school threats as a laughing matter and must make sure our students understand that. I continue to urge parents to monitor your children’s social media accounts and internet searches while encouraging them to make good decisions. Any threat against our schools will be taken very seriously and investigated. The consequences for committing such acts will be enforced by the district and police to the fullest extent of the law.”
The district decided to hold school Wednesday as scheduled, after determining that the paper was not a credible threat. It was a scheduled late start day for students. To ease any tensions or anxiety, the Coloma Township Police Department had a presence in the high school throughout the school day.
Berrien student petitioned on terrorism charge
On Wednesday, April 11, Michigan State Police troopers took a 15-year-old juvenile into custody and lodged him at the Berrien County Juvenile Center on a charge of threat of terrorism.
The juvenile, a Berrien Township resident had been a student at Berrien Springs High School. While it is alleged a threat of violence was made, there was no information uncovered that suggested violence towards another or a school was imminent.
The Juvenile Division of Berrien County Family Court accepted the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office petition. The next court event will be an arraignment at a date to be determined.
Agencies involved in the investigation in addition to the Michigan State Police were the Berrien Springs/ Oronoko Township Police Department, the FBI, and the Berrien County Violent Crimes Task Force. The charge is merely an accusation and the juvenile is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
In February 2018, Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic stated that his office was addressing several local school threat investigations. He said then that law enforcement was taking considerable time to investigate each incident for the imminence of a true threat of violence and then proceeding to gather evidence to forward to the Prosecutor’s Office to determine if the elements of criminal charges are met and if charges are appropriate given the particular circumstances.
Sepic said then, “On the one hand, it is extremely unfortunate that an idle, attention getting, foolish misstep could inject a minor into the criminal justice system. On the other hand, students and parents have to realize that when charges can be brought, they will be; make sure the student does not have real thoughts of terrorism and to deter them and others from future similar conduct.”
Police respond to fire at school
On April 9, 2018 at approximately 1:36 p.m., the Coloma Township Police Department responded to Coloma High School for a reported arson.
Officers were advised that the fire had already been extinguished.
Upon arrival, officers made contact with students and staff. In the midst of conducting an investigation, officers interviewed a 17-year-old student who admitted to intentionally starting a fire in the auto shop tool crib using gasoline in the room. The fire was subsequently reported to a teacher who extinguished the fire.
The 17-year-old suspect from Benton Harbor was lodged at the Berrien County Jail and is facing charges of 3rd degree arson. Thankfully there were no injuries.
Gun thieves end up in fatal accident
On Sunday, April 15 at approximately 5:11 a.m., a neighbor of the Black Arsenal Gun Store in Stevensville called Berrien County 911 Emergency Dispatch to report glass breakage. The caller was able to give a description of a gold 4-door SUV that left the scene heading towards Red Arrow Highway.
The breaking and entering into the store was confirmed by the alarm company contacting 911 Emergency Dispatch reporting an active alarm. Area police agencies were advised of the situation and given the vehicle description.
Lincoln Township Police arrived on scene and were able to identify that several guns were missing from the gun store.
At approximately 5:26 a.m., a Berrien County Sheriff’s Deputy observed a vehicle matching the description of the suspect vehicle on I-94 eastbound near the 27-mile marker. The deputy activated his emergency lights and a traffic stop was initiated. The suspect vehicle pulled to the side of the roadway. After coming to a stop, the vehicle then sped off heading east bound on I-94.
The deputy then pursued the vehicle with his emergency lights and siren activated. The pursuit proceeded eastbound on I-94 where the vehicle exited at M-139 and turned southbound towards Scottdale. The vehicle continued southbound on M-139 where it lost control north of Rocky Weed Road and crashed into a large tree.
There were a total of four occupants in the vehicle at the time of the crash. Three of the occupants were pronounced deceased at the scene. One was transported to Lakeland via Medic 1 Ambulance.
The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office has requested the Michigan State Police to investigate the crash. The MSP Traffic Crash Reconstruction Team was activated along with the Fifth District Special Investigation Section.
According to the Michigan State Police they have been able to preliminarily identify the occupants of the vehicle in the crash.
The driver of the vehicle was Jamahri Jayshaun Fuller, 20, of Benton Harbor. The front passenger was identified as Davion Marquez Patton, 17, of Benton Harbor. The rear passenger that passed away was Allan Trevon-James Velox, 17, of Benton Harbor. The other rear passenger, Anton Duran Morgan, 17, of Benton Harbor, has been transported to Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids and is in critical condition.
The Lincoln Township Police Department has confirmed that there were eight firearms stolen from the gun store and all eight firearms were recovered at the scene of the crash. There were three pistols, one shotgun, and five rifles.
Any and all future inquiries regarding the crash investigation should be forwarded to the Michigan State Police.