A student who was recently enrolled at York County Community College was arrested in his home state of Vermont last week after threatening a mass shooting at his former high school.
According to Vermont police, 18-year-old Jack Sawyer also attended a residential school near Belfast for troubled teens. York County Community College officials say they have no indication that anyone was at risk while Sawyer was a student.
Last Wednesday the Fair Haven Police Department in Vermont was notified that Sawyer was making threats against Fair Haven Union High School, where he had been a student, but Chief William Humphries says it was a follow-up tip from a friend that led to his arrest. The two had spent time together at Ironwood, a residential treatment school in Maine for teens with emotional and behavioral disorders. Sawyer had texted the friend about the school shooting in Florida.
"He had told her that he had been plotting to do the same for the last two years at Fair Haven High School, he said that he had no problem doing it, that he wouldn't really have any remorse, that had no problem with ending it early," says Humphries.
Sawyer had also purchased a gun. During an arraignment in court last week, Sawyer pleaded not guilty to several charges, including attempted murder. He's currently being held without bail.
Until recently, Sawyer was taking a class at York County Community College. President Barbara Finkelstein says he withdrew earlier this month. After the news of his arrest, Finkelstein sent a letter to the school community, saying there was no indication anyone was ever at risk while Sawyer was a student, and emphasizing that safety and security are on ongoing priority.
"We've always been very vigilant,” says Finkelstein. “We have an active emergency response team that does practice drills all the time at the college. We have a number of security protocols in place at the college."
Both Finkelstein and Vermont police credit the tips from Sawyer's friends for averting violence, and say it's a good reminder that if you see something suspicious, say something.