SAFFORD – More information regarding Monday’s hoax bomb threat at Safford High School has been revealed, including the identity of the 17-year-old perpetrator.
Timothy Miguel Diaz was arrested Tuesday and referred to juvenile probation on recommended charges of threatening or intimidating and hoax for allegedly posting a fake bomb threat on the social media app “After School”. Threatening or intimidating is a Class-1 Misdemeanor and hoax is a Class-4 Felony, according to the Arizona Revised Statues. As of early Wednesday afternoon, Graham County Attorney Kenny Angle has yet to formally charge Diaz, who is currently being held at the Eastern Arizona Regional Juvenile Detention Facility (EARJDF). The school has informed the police that it wants to prosecute Diaz for his actions.
Safford Superintendent Ken Van Winkle said the decision to prosecute came down to a concern for all of the district’s students.
“We can’t take anything like this lightly,” Van Winkle said. “We have to protect our kids. That’s our number one priority.”
According to Safford Police reports, Diaz was the person who first advised the school’s assistant principal, Torey Lietzke, about the bomb threat posted on the app Monday morning. The post stated, “I have planted a bomb in the school. You have 30 minutes to find and disarm it or evacuate. You have been warned.”
According to its website, the After School app “fosters fun and creative online and offline experiences for America’s teens in a positive environment with zero tolerance for cyberbullying, threats or content that threatens the safety of our online community.”
After being notified of the threat, Principal Rich DeRidder notified the school’s resource officer, Luke Arbizo, and started the facility’s evacuation protocol to relocate the students to the baseball fields west of the school. The school also initially informed parents who questioned what was going on that the action was a drill so they would not interfere with the police investigation.
Authorities and firefighters arrived and secured the scene at about 10:23 a.m. After the 30-minute timeline had passed, investigators and school officials combed through the facility looking for anything out of the ordinary. After not finding anything, the decision was made to reopen the school and students were sent back to class at about 11:24 a.m.
Safford Police Chief Joe Brugman lauded the efforts from the school staff, firefighters, emergency medical services and his own officers.
“From start to finish, everyone performed exceptionally well,” Brugman said.
Van Winkle also commented on the way the issue was handled at the school.
“The teachers were incredible,” he said. “They were actually asked at one point to go back in their classrooms and look for anything unusual and they did so and made sure the kids were OK. I just appreciate the whole action of the (employees) of the high school.”
On Tuesday, a Safford detective received information from an employee of the After School app that showed GPS information of the anonymous user who posted the bomb threat. Apparently, the user had posted roughly 20 other posts, some from a residence in the 600 block of S. Valley Avenue. The residence was familiar to the investigators; it was Diaz’s family’s residence.
Investigators then located Diaz at school and asked about the app on his phone. Diaz said he had deleted it after the incident and when he reinstalled it at the detectives’ request, it required setting up a new account. The detectives then received permission from Diaz’s father to seize the phone to conduct a download.
After visiting with the family and receiving permission to interview Diaz, the suspect was taken out of school and interrogated at the Safford Police Department.
After initially denying posting the threat, Diaz allegedly eventually admitted posting it. He allegedly said he didn’t know why he did it and that he was just finished with his homework and was bored. Diaz said he actually had to post the threat twice because the first one was erased for some reason, according to police reports.
A school official informed the detective that the school wanted to press charges against Diaz, and he was given a juvenile referral and booked into the EARJDF.
After Diaz is released from police custody, Van Winkle said the school will also take appropriate disciplinary action, which could include suspension.
“I think we learned some things as we worked with the police department,” Van Winkle said. “We all need to get together and be prepared. I think the biggest thing is just being prepared for this world we are living in.”