According to North Bergen Police Chief Angelo Busacco, the student, whose name cannot be revealed because of his juvenile status, was taken into custody at approximately 5 a.m. last Thursday morning and charged with making terroristic threats and intent to cause widespread injury or damage.
"Neither the police nor school officials take any incident like this lightly," Busacco said. "We have to deal with each one seriously. It was not considered a hoax by any means. When there's a threat of this magnitude, we have to follow it up every time."
According to both police and school reports, word started filtering through the school that the teenager apparently had a bomb that was set to blow up the school.
"The initial threat came from students making a comment about a fellow student," Superintendent of Schools Peter Fischbach said. "A student or a group of students first heard something, then they saw another thing in a chat room. By late Wednesday, the rumors had spread. The students contacted us and we immediately turned over the information to the police department."
School officials, such as Fischbach, Assistant Superintendents Nicholas Sacco, who is also the township mayor, and Vincent Ascolese, Vice-Principal Art Certisimo and Board of Education Secretary Jack Duffy, went to the school and searched the school, along with members of the North Bergen police and the Bergen County K-9 Bomb Sniffing Squad.
From 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., the school was thoroughly searched and nothing was found.
"We went from top to the bottom of the building," Fischbach said. "And came up with nothing."
To be certain, the police searched all students' backpacks upon entering the school on Thursday morning. Also that morning, the students were evacuated from the building and backpacks were scanned and searched, just as another precaution.
"We were going to take every precaution possible," Fischbach said. "It was always a thought to empty the building, just to be sure."
After an hour, the students were returned to their classrooms.
However, North Bergen police had already arrested their suspect at that time.
According to Busacco, Detective Debbine Cummins-Curry of the juvenile department headed the investigation, assisted by fellow Detective Mike Derin, as well as Capt. Rob Carmesi and Sgt. Frank Cannella.
"Basically, they back tracked every step with the students who heard the threat," Busacco said. "As names continued to come up, we worked in accordance with the school officials and were able to determine the suspect. Essentially, one call from a concerned parent triggered the whole investigation and we were able to move pretty quickly."
The apprehended student has yet to be sent to juvenile court, so the charges remain active. He has been suspended from school and will more than likely be assigned to home study or another placement program for the remainder of the school year. Because he will be charged as a juvenile, it is not determined how long of a sentence he would receive if found guilty of the charges.
Fischbach had nothing but praise for the work of the police department.
"It's a tribute to the police department and the emergency response group that this was resolved so quickly," Fischbach said. "We've been long prepared for anything of this nature, preceding the Columbine tragedy. The cooperation between Chief Busacco and his department was outstanding.
Added Fischbach, "As far as we know, this student should have known better. We haven't received any comment from him as to why he did what he did. But students have to be aware that any statements or comments made over the Internet of this nature will be taken seriously and that they have to be responsible for their actions." Busacco said that any further threats will be treated even more severely.
"What we've discussed is that we have to send out a message," Busacco said. "Threats like this, whether a joke or real, will not be tolerated. We will apprehend the suspects and prosecute them. They will be charged and dealt with very severely. We're not going to coddle anyone who can make threats like this."