A postcard depicting a semi-automatic rifle with the words “Coming to a school near you?” that caused a panic Thursday in Idaho Falls was sent by someone who wanted to raise awareness of the threat of gun violence in schools, said police.
Idaho Falls Police Department officials said the woman had no ill intent, expressed regret and is not being charged with a crime. However, they are still investigating “some very serious posts” regarding the incident that, they said, amplified Thursday’s worry with “rumors on social media of very serious false allegations of violent incidents occurring around the city.”
The woman, whom police didn’t name but said is in her late 80s and has “participated in political activism for many years” according to a police news release, contacted police Friday morning to tell them she sent the postcard. She told police she had sent four postcards, using the white pages to locate addresses in neighborhoods which may have a high number of children, although only one was reported to police. Police met with the woman Friday morning. She told them she meant to “wake up the community to the threat of gun violence in schools.”
“She said she had no ill intentions and expressed immense regret that the postcard may have made children fearful to go to school,” police said.
Officer Brian Smith, who investigated the case, praised her for coming forward.
“We hope that her honesty and courage in coming forward to rectify the situation will put an end to the panic which has been widespread in our community,” he said.
Idaho Falls School District 91 sent an email to parents late Wednesday, alerting them of “a suspicious postcard a D91 parent received in the mail,” saying there was a vague reference to a weapon. This led to widespread worry, and some parents kept their children home as a precaution. Police said there was never a threat, although Compass Academy did implement some extra security measures Thursday as a precaution.
However, police are still investigating some social media rumors surrounding the incident. Police spokeswoman Holly Cook compared spreading false information about such an incident to “yelling fire in a crowded theater.”
“During the ‘mailpiece mayhem,’ there were several false allegations made online on social media,” she said. “Many of those are being investigated now.”
If anyone broke any laws in doing so, they will be prosecuted, said Detective Sgt. John Marley.
“We hope that people will call police to verify a threat rather than posting it on social media, which becomes an additional problem,” he said.
Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNes