South Fayette man arrested for threatening to ‘shoot up’ Butler schools
A South Fayette man who allegedly told police he was joking when he threatened to “shoot up” several Butler public schools on Facebook is behind bars.
Bryan Paul Flecken, 28, a 2008 graduate of Butler Area Senior High School, was charged with making terroristic threats and taken into custody at Allegheny County Jail shortly before 4 p.m., South Fayette Township police Chief John Phoennik said.
“I don’t believe that he was actually going to go through with the threat, but we’re always going to err on the side of caution,” Phoennik said.
Butler Area School District notified parents and caregivers about the incident via letters and text alerts.
“After an extensive search, the police determined he does not have access to weapons,” Superintendent Brian White wrote in the message. “While we don’t know all of the details, we are grateful to all law enforcement for their quick actions.”
Bridgeville police first looked into reports of a social media post that raised alarm on Thursday — a day after 17 people died during the deadliest U.S. mass school shooting in five years in Parkland, Fla.
According to a criminal complaint, screenshots of a conversation about the Florida shooting and the topic of gun control included this comment from Flecken:
“Nobody gives a (expletive). I’ll prove it. I’m gonna buy 34 rifles and shoot up my first place of employment…how about next Wednesday…about 2:30. I bet … no (expletive) police or fbi even THINK of tracking me down. Nobody cares. Big brother is comatose.”
Bridgeville officials turned the case over to South Fayette police when they learned the man who wrote the post lived in a South Fayette apartment.
On Friday, South Fayette police went to the man’s home, where he gave them permission to access his phone, which revealed additional Facebook comments in the thread and a more alarming and specific threat: “Gonna shoot up: Butler JHS, IHS, or Sr. High???” wrote Flecken, according to the complaint. In the same thread, Flecken added, “I’m game,” and, “Clearly … I have nothing to live for …”
When police questioned Flecken, he admitted he had made some “less than colorful comments” on Facebook, the complaint said.
“He basically said he was having a colorful conversation with his friends,” Phoennik said.
“We have zero tolerance for this in today’s world with everything going on,” added Phoennik. “Somebody makes a comment like that, you’re going to be arrested in South Fayette.”
The FBI assisted local police in making the arrest.
The incident marked at least the third person taken into custody in Western Pennsylvania on Friday for making a threat against a school.
A 17-year-old from Turtle Creek made a threatening Snapchat post Thursday that prompted Franklin Regional School District to cancel classes. He is being taken for a mental health evaluation and probably will not be charged with a crime.
Monroeville police arrested a Gateway High School student Friday morning for a threat he posted to Snapchat.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, email@example.com or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.