Police: Spanaway high school 'hit list' was a joke


by DEBORAH FELDMAN / KING Staff and Associated Press


Posted on May 14, 2010 at 6:38 AM

Updated Friday, May 14 at 12:55 PM

SPANAWAY, Wash. -- An alarming "kill list" uncovered at Spanaway Lake High School in Spanaway is turning out to be nothing more than a joke, but nobody's laughing, especially Pierce County Sheriff's detectives.

Reports of a possible hit list surfaced Thursday night at a meeting with parents at Spanaway Lake High School after a student was stabbed several times Wednesday. A male student told the crowd another student had made a "kill list," prompting school officials to notify parents by automated voice message about a possible threat.

After investigating the claim, Pierce County Sheriff's investigators questioned another 18-year-old student, who acknowledged he made the list.  Investigators determined the list was an inside joke, with no real threat or crimes. The list was never in writing and the joke was among friends, including those named on the list, from last school year.

A Pierce County Sheriff's' spokesman said the 18-year-old in custody for the stabbing did not compile the list, but he is apparently acquaintances with the student who did. The sheriff's department says they do not have further concerns about it and think it became an issue in light of Wednesday's stabbing.

Even before the existence of the "kill list" was confirmed, counselors and Pierce County Sheriff's deputies converged on the school campus Friday morning to make sure students felt safe and to learn more about the potential new threat.

"Everybody was talking about it like, 'Oh my God, Have you heard about this!' And on MySpace it was like, hit list, hit list, hit list. That's all you saw," said Dulce Molina, student.

"Well, I'm scared. All of us are honestly scared. But I think we should be fine," said Vanessa Perez, student.

School officials still spoke with as many students as they could.

"We have some of them sequestered right now writing statements right now. So as soon as we know more, we will certainly pass along that information," said Krista Carlson, Bethel School District. "We've had a lot happen here this week. You know it's certainly enough to rattle our students, our staff, our parents. And you know, everybody's trying to cope."

One parent of two students at the school said he was confident the school was handling the problem appropriately.

"It's a little unsettling, but after Wednesday's events, you never know. You know you send your kids to school and you just don't expect anything to happen. But it's the world we live in unfortunately," said David Eckhaus, parent.

The sheriff's department says even though this ended up being a lot of stress about nothing, they are pleased the school district took this very seriously. 

Spanaway Lake High School student stabbed

On Thursday, 18-year-old Joshua Ray Shirley pleaded not guilty in Pierce County Superior Court to one count of first-degree assault. Police say Shirley attacked another student, Lucas Thompson, with a knife Wednesday as he sat in the Spanaway Lake High School band room. Thompson was stabbed repeatedly in the head; he was treated at a hospital. 

On Thursday night, the victim's father spoke out about the attack.

"He's still in shock, he was in the hospital for several hours," said George Thompson, victim's father. "He got two major gouges, in the back of his head, staples, and stitches."

The Bethel School District acknowledged at Thursday night's meeting with parents that Shirley had multiple knives on him when he was detained.

But the district stressed that there were no behavioral warning signs, or suggestions which would have hinted at what was called an unprovoked attack.

Thompson wonders whether the district should do more to protect students.

"This was a major knife, not something that you fold up in your pocket, and sharpen your pencil with," said Thompson.

The district says it believes its schools are properly protected. In this case, classes were locked down within seconds, and students were able to provide immediate first aid to the wounded teen.

KING 5's Chris Daniels contributed to this report.