ESCONDIDO (CNS) - Four Escondido charter schools canceled all classes today as a precaution in response to an online school-shooting threat apparently sent by a computer hacker trying to get an innocent student into trouble, authorities said.
Administrators at the American Heritage schools -- Heritage K-8 Charter, Escondido Charter High School, Heritage Digital Academy Middle School and Heritage Digital Academy High School -- announced the single-day shutdowns by phone Thursday night, and on their joint website and Facebook page, saying they wanted "students and staff to be safe."
Dennis Snyder, executive director of the schools, described the threat to reporters.
"(Staffers) saw posted that ... at 10:30 (a.m.) 'Escondido Charter High School is going to be shot up; 'I'm going to kill myself,' or 'commit suicide,' along those lines, (and) 'You'll see me on the news,"' Snyder said.
Escondido police Lieutenant Neal Griffin says detectives are getting closer to figuring out who made the threat, adding that chat room users from all over the country notified authorities when they saw it.
"We actually had six different reporting parties from around the country -- Texas, Illinois, Washington," Griffin said.
At a briefing late Friday afternoon, Griffin said investigators traced the statements to a computer owned by a student of another school, and ultimately determined that the youth evidently had fallen victim to a high-tech frame job.
"This person did not write the message, did not post. They have nothing to do with it," Griffin said.
"At this point ... based on the results of that interview and the evidence we have collected, we are prepared to rule that person out as the sender of this message," Griffin told news crews. "In other words, what this person amounts to, this minor child, is ... a victim of a very malicious personal attack of identity theft."
Student Raymond Barclay says the incident left him shaken up.
"It's kind of shocking, because you know, you see it happen all over, everywhere. You don't expect it to happen where you are," he said.
School officials said classes would resume Tuesday, following the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
The four campuses in the 1800 block of East Valley Parkway have a combined enrollment of about 1,700.
Snyder, a teacher and former football coach in the Escondido Union High School District, founded the schools in 1996.
"We hope to use this as an educational thing to parents. Monitor your kids, know what they're doing. And to students... how serious this is, because this is a felony," Snyder said.