Student charged with felonious threat against Northside High

Published 2:10 pm Friday, October 12, 2018

A conversation overheard on the school bus led to a felony charge for a student at Northside High School this week. According to a release from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Austin Shane Walden, 18, of Belhaven, was charged with making a false threat of mass violence on educational property on Tuesday.

According to the release, another student overheard a conversation on the bus during which Walden allegedly made threats of violence against the school. BCSO Lieutenant Jim VanLandingham says this student went on to report the conversation to faculty and administrators at the school.

According to the BCSO, Northside School Resource Office Milton Long was informed of the alleged threat shortly after 9 a.m., at which point he began an investigation. After conducting interviews and searches, long charged Walden for with the felony. According to the BCSO release, no gun was located on campus.

“The searches didn’t yield any gun or contraband of any kind,” VanLandingham said. “The interviews did yield a second person who overheard the same conversation.”

Van Landingham said there was no evidence that would lead investigators to believe the threat was credible. The release goes on to state that, “it is alleged that Walden made the false threat because he was upset over a rumor about him and an unidentified girl at the same school.”

The incident on Tuesday is the third threat of mass violence the BCSO and BCS have handled in 2018.

In February, authorities tightened security at local schools after a social media threat circulated throughout the county. While the threat was quickly determined to have not originated in Beaufort County, local schools saw increased law enforcement presence in the days to follow.

In April, a 15-year-old suspect, whose name was not released due to his age, was charged with making a false report concerning mass violence on educational property after making a social media post threatening to shoot up Washington High School.

“That’s not something we take lightly,” BCS Interim Superintendent Mark Doane said of the threats. “We thoroughly investigate, we question witnesses, we question students, we contact parents and we get law enforcement involved.”

Doane said that he credits administrators and faculty for building relationships of trust that allow students to feel comfortable coming forward, as well as the swift actions of the SRO. He went on to emphasize the importance of having students be a part of the partnership in keeping schools safe.

“When kids overhear other kids making what could turn out to be serious threats, what is reinforced is that we’re here for the safety and security of our kids,” Doane said. “That’s a team effort, and we need students to be part of that team.”

According to North Carolina state law, the charge Walden faces is classified as a Class H felony. According to the Beaufort County Schools’ code of conduct, students may face long-term suspension or expulsion for making a threat of physical attack with a firearm.