MILLINGTON, TN (abc24.com) - 19-year-old Jamal Smith was arrested by Memphis Police on Monday, November 14, 2011, after Millington Police say he made a hit list and posted it on Facebook.
Millington Central High School was put in lockdown for more than two hours while police searched for the suspect. Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies were stationed at every corner of the school, as parents circled outside.
Michelle Sanders was waiting for her 17-year-old daughter, in her truck, across the street from the school when abc24.com talked to her about the scare.
“I work downtown," says Sanders. "I left as soon as I heard. They were saying we couldn’t get to them. They couldn’t give us details. You hear about school shootings all the time. I’m very nervous.”
The rumors were flying. The daughter of David Robbins’ girlfriend was locked in the school. He was communicating with her through text messaging.
“She said she was huddled in a corner and somebody might hurt them,” he says.
Robbins then read one of the girl's text messages aloud to abc24.com.
"There’s a guy at the school with a gun. He’s threatening to kill Kenton, Hannah, Coach Phillip, me and two guys that graduated last year," he says.
The gunman wasn’t at the school. But for parents and police, it was a serious threat. Facebook posts led to the chaotic scene.
“I don’t know what explanation this young man will give," says Shelby County Schools spokesperson Mike Tebbe, "but that’s immaterial. You just don’t do that. Facebook, a lot of people view this as a toy, a game, but it’s serious.”
Jamal Smith’s mother died two weeks ago. Monday, the grieving teen told everyone on his social network he now “has nothing to lose.” In posts, he bragged about buying hundreds of dollars worth of ammunition and talked about searching for people to kill. His next post identifies Millington Central High School specifically.
“I think I’ll shoot the school up just to take the pain away," Smith writes. The third post begins, “This is a warning. I got a list of all the people I will target." Smith lists students, coaches, teachers, even the principal and assistant principal. The last line reads, “these people need to die.”
It was a threat that no one took lightly.
“Regardless of his intent," says Tebbe, "we view this seriously. It's disruptive in nature. Even if someone says they were kidding, we are serious. This shouldn’t happen.”
Police found Smith at his apartment in Memphis. The former MCHS student is being held in the Millington jail. Police say he admitted to posting the death threats. He is charged with threatening a school employee, which is a misdemeanor charge. Police say this is an ongoing investigation.