COTTONWOOD - The Cottonwood Police Department received a threat on Tuesday of violence that would occur during the Mingus Union Friday night graduation ceremony. Mingus Superintendent Tim Foist said the police then brought the threat to school officials.
"Chief Fanning brought it to Tamara Addis and me on Tuesday," Foist told the Verde Independent. "In today's society, any threat is serious."
Foist and police would not elaborate Friday morning on the exact type of violence the threat contained. "It was a threat to bring harm to the crowd," Foist said. "He wants to go out in style."
Foist said this type of threat happens often in large venues, such as sporting events, but is rare at a high school. "We're in an absolutely lose, lose situation," he said. "We've had a great discussion with the chief last night."
Foist said a lengthy discussion and debate also took place with the school board.
"We would call it a domestic violence - a terrorist - threat," Foist said. "We've taken a lot of precautionary measures. Security goes out over a mile."
Foist said authorities believe the threat is legitimate. "We are going to have a lot of extra security."
Neither Foist nor Police Chief Jody Fanning would go into detail on the nature of the threat or the extent of the extra security. But Homeland Security, FBI, local, county and state agencies are involved.
"The unlikely scenario is - we know that society has changed, and schools are a great place to create havoc," Foist said.
School officials sent out a press release with the warning via the school district's phone message tree at 8:55 p.m. Thursday. The release states that a threat of violence had been received that violence would occur at graduation.
It also states that law-enforcement agencies are involved and that they "have determined that the threat warrants caution."
Parents or students who choose not to attend graduation can pick up their diplomas on Tuesday, May 31.
"So far this morning, we've not had one call," Foist explained about whether the message had brought any reaction from parents.
Foist said that the board and authorities discussed at length whether to move the graduation ceremony inside. He said it was decided that the best action would be to have the ceremony outside as planned.
"We're going to have a very safe graduation," Foist said.
He said the school administration and board had to let as many people as possible know about the threat. "So they can make a choice," Foist said.
Chief Fanning agreed with Foist that graduation will be safe.
"I know this event will be safe," Fanning said. "We are all very confident this event will be safe."