Under Tennessee law:
• It is an act of terrorism to intentionally initiate or circulate a report of an impending ... emergency knowing that the report is false and knowing it will place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury and that was intended, directly or indirectly, to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, in violation of TCA 39-16-502 and 39-13-805.
• It is an offense for any person to commit an act of terrorism in this state. An act of terrorism is a Class A felony.
• Class A felonies are the most serious felonies in Tennessee. They are punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
• Hoaxes involving terrorist threats create a substantial drain on governmental resources and are a significant disruption to the operation of government and to residents’ sense of personal security. In addition to the penalties otherwise provided by law, any person convicted of a violation either as an act of terrorism or as a hoax, shall make restitution of the costs incurred by any public or private entity or person resulting from such offense.
Whoever made the Hawkins County 911 call just before 8 a.m. last Tuesday saying that he was in the main bathroom at Volunteer High School, was in possession of a handgun, and was going to make his way to the gymnasium and open fire, has not a clue of the kind of trouble he’s in.
He may have thought his hoax call would be taken as a joke. He may think now that even when they identify him that he won’t be in serious trouble. We say “when they identify him” because they almost certainly will either through cellphone tracing or because he will brag to the wrong person.
But there was nothing funny about terrifying hundreds of students, parents, law enforcement personnel and emergency services as well as thousands throughout the region who feared children were at direct risk right here in Northeast Tennessee.
It was no joke as students in tears were reunited with parents whose hearts had been torn out. No one was laughing over the shutdown of a high school and elementary children being told to hide under their desks in lockdowns at other schools.
The person who made this call needs to face the full weight of state law.
He needs to go to prison for some period of time. He needs to be charged the full cost of what he did including the time consumed by each and every emergency and law enforcement person involved and right down to the last gallon of fuel in their vehicles, a bill that will remain open and payable for the rest of his life.
Perhaps he’s a juvenile. That may affect how and with what he can be charged, but there should be no forgiveness.
Such an act as this is not to be tolerated in any respect. An example must be set.