WAYNESVILLE, Missouri- According to a report by the Pulaski County Daily News, brandishing a banana could land a Waynesville High School student behind bars for holding it in his hand “like a gun, pointing the banana at several students and making the gesture as if firing a pistol at them,” according to court documents filed today by Pulaski County Prosecutor Kevin Hillman.
Nikolas E. Mercado, 17, of Waynesville, faces up to two to seven years in state prison if convicted of the Class D felony of making a terrorist threat on Monday “by stating, ‘I am a school shooter’ and ‘I am going to shoot you all’ or words to that effect,” according to the charges, and “did so for the purpose of frightening ten or more people.”
According to the report filed by a Waynesville R-VI School District school resource officer, “several students observed and overheard the comments made by Mercado and reported Mercado to Waynesville High School Security,” stating that “all of the witnesses felt threatened and were placed in fear by the statements and actions made by Mercado.”
Monday’s incident doesn’t appear to be related to a Wednesday decision by the Waynesville R-VI School District, Laquey R-V School District, and Crocker R-II School District to place some or all of their schools on “soft lockdown” in response to a threat made in Waynesville.
School officials in both Laquey and Crocker confirmed their lockdown decisions were based on the unspecified Waynesville threat.
“We went onto a soft lockdown due to the threats that Waynesville had received. We had a career and college fair today where we had other schools coming so we were being a little extra cautious,” said Laquey Superintendent Randy Caffey. “We are already on soft lockdown all the time with visitors. The only thing that changes for us (during soft lockdowns) is we don’t take the students outside. We’re still very conscious of who is let in and things like that; the main difference is to keep them inside because we are already a closed campus.”
In a prepared statement, Waynesville’s assistant superintendent of operational services, Chris Berger, said Waynesville Middle School went on “soft lockdown” until noon “based on a potential threat against an individual student who attends the school.” The Waynesville Sixth Grade Center, which is located in the former Waynesville Technical Academy facility behind the middle school, was also placed on soft lockdown “due to its close proximity,” Berger said.
Unlike Monday’s banana incident, Wednesday’s threat “was made via social media,” according to Berger.
“Fortunately, this threat was quickly reported and law enforcement officials have investigated it and have deemed it as not credible and so we lifted our soft lockdown at noon,” Berger said.
In Wednesday’s incident, the Waynesville Middle School student’s parents “worked closely with school and law enforcement officials,” which is what Berger said should be done in similar cases rather than forwarding or responding to an online social media threat.
“I want to encourage parents to monitor their children’s social media activities and to remind them to report any threat immediately. Students are also reminded to not forward a threat or respond to it and instead immediately report it to authorities,” Berger said.
Each school district handles lockdowns differently and details of security procedures are not public. However, the increased police presence at Waynesville Middle School today attracted attention.
Despite the police presence, classes continued as normal, Berger said.
“During the time of soft lockdown, 6-8th grade students continued their regular classroom activities; however, supervision was increased and all exterior doors were locked. Law enforcement officials had increased visibility,” Berger said. “The safety of all of our students is a priority.”