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Terrorist threats lock down Brandon schools



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Christopher Thompson (click for larger version)
November 18, 2009 - An 18-year-old Brandon Township man is facing 20 years in prison after making threats this week that ultimately caused a 2-day lockdown of two Brandon schools.

Christopher Thompson was arraigned Nov. 19 on a charge of making a terrorist threat or false report terrorism in front of 52-2 District Court Judge Joseph Fabrizio. Bond was set at $15,000 cash surety, no 10 percent. If Thompson makes bond, he is barred from returning to any Brandon School District property, displaying any assaultive behavior, and/or having any contact with victims or witnesses in the case.

H.T Burt Lifelong Learning Center and Harvey Swanson Elementary School were locked down Monday and Tuesday after Thompson threatened to kill all the teachers in the CHOICES program, where he was a student. CHOICES, the Brandon School District's alternative high school, is housed in the H.T. Burt Lifelong Learning Center, where preschool classes also meet. Harvey Swanson Elementary adjoins the building.

"It was no different than if he'd phoned in a bomb threat," said Oakland County Sheriff's Office Detective Dale Brown. "Any time these threats are made, we'll take them seriously. I think the staff (of CHOICES) acted very effectively in not aggravating the situation and taking the threats seriously."

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According to police reports, CHOICES Principal Pam Schoemer called police about 10:15 a.m., Nov. 16, "extremely concerned" for the safety of students and staff. She told Brown that Thompson, who had a "long list of issues" during his time as a CHOICES student, became upset during class and was asked by the teacher to leave the school. His response was that he was going to "return and kill all the teachers."

Thompson left prior to the arrival of police. Schoemer told Brown she believed that based on past experience with Thompson that his threats were credible and "he is the type who would act on those threats."

Further investigation revealed that Thompson had made a prior threat to kill all the teachers on Nov. 13, with two teachers confirming they had heard him say this following his ejection from class for insubordination. In the police report, one of the teachers noted that Thompson has a "long history of violent outbursts and a very emotionally unstable personality."

A police presence was requested for when school let out for the day on Monday, and police were also present when school began on Tuesday, in the event Thompson returned. Brown received information later on Tuesday that Thompson had allegedly been involved in several local crimes, including the Nov. 3 theft of a handgun from a vehicle in the 3800 block of Apple in the township. The informant also showed a picture of the handgun, a .40 caliber Glock 23 handgun that Thompson had taken with his cell phone. Schoemer was advised that Thompson may have the means to carry out the threat and a short time later, OCSO Sgt. Pete Burkett and School Liaison Officer Ken Alderman located Thompson as a passenger in a vehicle. He was taken into custody without incident.

The gun was not recovered.

Thompson initially denied threatening to kill all the teachers, then said he may have said it to another student, then said if he said it, he doesn't remember it and was just angry. He denied knowledge of the handgun, but when confronted with the cell phone photo, admitted taking the picture.

Brown said Thompson is also being investigated for possible involvement in an Oct. 15 home invasion on Crescent Hill in which jewelry and $2,500 cash was stolen; a Sept. 3 larceny from an auto on Crescent Court in which checks were stolen and subsequently cashed on Oct. 6.

A preliminary exam for Thompson on the terrorist threat charge is planned for Dec. 2 in front of 52-2 Judge Kelley Kostin.

According to the Michigan Penal Code, section 750.543m, a person is guilty of making a terrorist threat or of making a false report of terrorism if the person threatens to commit an act of terrorism and communicates the threat to any other person; and/or knowingly makes a false report of an act of terrorism and communicates the false report to any other person, knowing the report is false. It is not a defense to a prosecution under this section that the defendant did not have the intent or capability of committing the act of terrorism. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years or a fine of not more than $20,000 or both.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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