May 1, 2012

Joint investigation into reported school incidents reveals no threat

Monroe County – The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the Key West Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been working with the Monroe County School District to investigate several suspicious incidents at county schools in recent weeks. The investigation has determined there is no threat to students and the incidents are not a security threat of any kind.

The first report of a possibly suspicious incident came from Marathon High School on April 24th; two men who identified themselves as Italian teachers who asked to tour the school after hours. They were granted a short tour and escorted off the property; afterward, because the visit made the school employees uncomfortable, they reported it to the Sheriff’s Office.

The school’s Principal, Hammond Gracy, also communicated with other school principals about what happened; shortly after that communication, other schools began to report similar incidents which had taken place in the past couple of weeks.

Key West Police responded to Glynn Archer Elementary School and Horace O’Bryant Middle School to take reports of visitors with possible foreign accents wanting to tour those schools early last week. Key Largo School recalled several people with foreign accents showing up on that campus two weeks ago asking for a tour; Islamorada’s Montessori School also remembered two women wanting a tour of the campus.

None of the reports indicated any threatening behavior by the people wanting the tours; but law enforcement and school administrators decided to investigate further just in case. Given the nature of the reported incidents, and the concern for the safety of Monroe County schools, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s local office was informed and became involved in following up the reports.

FBI investigators were able to determine none of the incidents were threatening in nature. They were able to identify and interview the visitors to the two schools in Key West and determined they posed no threat and were there for a legitimate purpose. They visited the Middle and Upper Keys schools as well, interviewed those school employees who were in contact with the visitors and determined those incidents do not appear to be threatening in nature and, indeed, appear to be isolated cases of people simply wanting to tour a schools.

At a meeting held today at School Administration headquarters, all the agencies involved discussed the results of the investigation into the reported incidents. Sheriff’s Colonel Rick Ramsay, KWPD Captain Scott Smith and Dr. Jesus Jara also discussed ways to streamline the communication process between the agencies in the future, and potential ways to improve school security.

“ We are just glad to be able to report these incidents were isolated, and appear to be innocent in nature,” said Colonel Rick Ramsay, after attending a final meeting with KWPD, FBI and School Superintendant Dr. Jesus Jara. “All the agencies involved in this investigation worked extremely well together with the goal of keeping our kids safe; we have determined there is no threat at this time. The fact that these incidents were reported quickly and investigated thoroughly shows the teamwork that exists between all of our agencies.”

KWPD Captain Scott Smith had positive words about the multi-jurisdictional effort as well. “The City Police, County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI have always had a good working relationship,” he said. “This joint investigation just goes to show that relationship extends to the School District as well. The safety of our kids is important to all of us and we are just glad this investigation turned up no threat to our kids or to our schools.”

“Security on our school campuses is always of paramount importance to us,” said Dr. Jara. “When these incidents came to light, we promptly brought them to the attention of law enforcement and worked with them throughout their investigation. We, as school administrators, must stay vigilant when it comes to the safety of our kids and we are just glad these incidents turned out to pose no threat to them, or to any of our employees.” 

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