Ha­zle­ton man charged with shoot­ing threats

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Sam Galski

It was a race against the clock for law en­force­ment in Ha­zle­ton on Satur­day as they scram­bled to col­lar a city man who they say threat­ened a mass shoot­ing at two local schools, po­lice Chief Jerry Speziale said.

It be­gan Satur­day morn­ing when Mayor Jeff Cusat said he re­ceived a “very alarm­ing and threat­en­ing” text mes­sage and ended later that day when po­lice ap­pre­hended Chris­tian Earl Diehl, 28, with­out in­ci­dent, the mayor and po­lice chief said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues, but po­lice said the threat is mit­i­gated.

It’s back to school as usual to­day for Ha­zle­ton Area stu­dents and staff, school district po­lice Chief Ed Harry said.

“The threat is done with,” Harry said Sun­day. “He’s locked up. It’s busi­ness as usual to­mor­row.”

Cusat said that he re­ceived a copy of a “very alarm­ing and threat­en­ing” text mes­sage on Satur­day morn­ing from a cit­i­zen whose daugh­ter re­ceived it.

The mes­sage, ac­cord­ing to po­lice, threat­ened Arthur Street Ele­men­tary School and Ha­zle­ton Area High School with a mass shoot­ing, pipe bombs and a pos­si­ble di­ver­sion plan.

Cusat for­warded the mes­sage to Speziale and the Ha­zle­ton po­lice com­mand staff, who be­gan form­ing a plan of ac­tion.

“It was alarm­ing be­cause it was very de­tailed,” Cusat said of the text. “It talked about a man­i­festo, a bomb threat to one school with the in­ten­tion of be­ing a di­ver­sion for an at­tack on an­other school.”

Po­lice mo­bi­lized early Satur­day and be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

Luzerne County Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Cen­ter was no­ti­fied of the threat and its dis­patch sys­tem up­dated should it re­ceive a call for ser­vice or re­sponse at school fa­cil­i­ties, po­lice said. In Ha­zle­ton, pa­trol divi­sion su­per­vi­sors briefed per­son­nel of the threats and co­or­di­nated re­sponse and tac­ti­cal plans to pro­tect the pub­lic.

District Judge Matthew Christo­pher is­sued an ar­rest war­rant for Diehl on a felony charge of threat­en­ing to use weapons of mass de­struc­tion, po­lice said.

Diehl was iden­ti­fied as the orig­i­na­tor of the threat, po­lice said. He was spotted driv­ing at Sixth and Church streets and ar­rested at 9:15 p.m. Satur­day, po­lice said. He was ar­raigned and jailed, Speziale said.

“We strate­gi­cally planned where we would safely ap­pre­hend him,” Speziale said. “We didn’t want him get­ting into a house.”

Speziale said that a de­tec­tive in­ter­viewed Diehl and that while po­lice have “some other in­ves­tiga­tive steps” to take, they be­lieve he acted alone.

The chief said it was key to ap­pre­hend the sus­pect be­fore the week­end ended.

“Our con­cern, we didn’t want to get to Mon­day morn­ing,” Speziale said. “We were fight­ing against the clock. My thing is, whether this [threat] is real or a hoax, think about the mass shoot­ings around the na­tion. Do you think those peo­ple only wish that theirs was a hoax? It’s un­ac­cept­able. There’s no way you can put a com­mu­nity in fear — or a school in fear — not af­ter what we’ve been through as a coun­try.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.