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Zacahary Dane Chapman
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
An unexpected early school dismissal Wednesday left numerous parents and community members alarmed, at least until full details could be revealed later that afternoon.
With short notice, it was announced that Coosa County schools would be releasing at 12 p.m. Wednesday. The message from Superintendent of Education David Stover that was posted to the school system website stated that the last minute early dismissal was “due to a situation in the community that we have been made aware of, we are taking every precaution for the safety of our school family.”
While details were not available initially because of the circumstances surrounding the situation, Stover did confirm with “The Coosa County News” that there was nothing in the school or on school grounds, such as a weapon or bomb, contrary to some rumors spreading at the time.
Stover further stated that the situation involved the Sheriff’s Office and Department of Human Resources. At the time he said that he could not reveal too many details because he did not want to hinder the investigation.
However, he said that they decided to err on the side of safety and take extra precautions to ensure the safety of students and staff, just in case anything were to transpire.
Later that afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office reported that, in cooperation with Stover, the county schools were put on a soft lock down that morning. The Sheriff’s Office also reported that a parent “made threats to take his children forcibly from the school and cause bodily harm to several individuals.”
“Due to the nature of this threat, Sheriff Michael Howell and Superintendent David Stover felt it necessary to eliminate the possibility of any threat and take all precautions necessary,” a press release from the Sheriff’s Office stated.
The investigation culminated in the arrest of Zachary Dane Chapman of Equality. Chapman just turned 33 years old the day prior to the incident.
Howell reported that Chapman, who does not have custody of his children, had made threats to “shoot up” the school. Further, Howell said that Chapman stated he would shoot and kill anyone who stood in his way, adding that he would die by suicide or “suicide by cop.”
Howell confirmed that Chapman was never actually on the school grounds, but because of the severity of the threats it was decided to dismiss school early so that everyone would be off campus.
Chapman was arrested and charged with making a terrorist threat. He was admitted into the Coosa County Jail at 1:53 p.m. Wednesday, April 13.
While rumors flew without details provided, the Sheriff’s Office reported that it could not release that information to the public prior to Chapman being taken into custody.
Sheriff Howell stated, “I understand it is alarming to parents when their kids are letting them know the school is on a lock down and there is no information or little information available. Please understand that the steps we take are always to ensure the safety of our kids. I believe it is important to take all threats seriously, and I want to take every step necessary to safeguard our children and staff.”
Following the arrest and the Sheriff’s Office being able to publicly share details, Stover also released a statement regarding the day’s events.
“Parents, earlier today we received notification of a potential threat stemming from a situation outside the school,” Stover’s Wednesday afternoon statement read. “We went into a soft lock down on school campuses and made the decision to release students early. Coosa County Sheriff’s Office provided extra security until the release time could be coordinated. Details were not released to you earlier in efforts to aid the Sheriff’s Office in a swift apprehension of the subject. The Sheriff’s Office has apprehended the subject. …Thank you for your patience and understanding during today’s events. Please know that your student’s safety is our main goal, and every one of those involved did a good job ensuring their safety.”
The crime of making a terrorist threat is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted.
Following Chapman’s arrest Wednesday his bond was set at $15,000. As of press time he remained in custody at the Coosa County Jail awaiting trial.