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Utah police chief credits free app with stopping potential school shooting

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The police chief here credits the free SafeUT smartphone app with stopping a potential school shooting in the Jordan School District. The app brings to light roughly one threat to a Utah school each day. (Photo: KUTV)

The police chief here credits the free SafeUT smartphone app with stopping a potential school shooting in the Jordan School District. The app brings to light roughly one threat to a Utah school each day.

MORE: How to download the SafeUT app

Before classes began Friday, West Jordan police officers took a Copper Hills High School student into custody. He’ll face charges in the juvenile court system.

Chief Ken Wallentine said several students reported concerning social media posts through the app, which connects parents, students and teachers directly with crisis counselors, school administrators and local law enforcement.

“They were threatening gun violence at the school to a particular student or students,” Wallentine said.

Police said the threat was targeted at Sunset Ridge Middle School. The high school student went to the middle school Thursday and got into a fight with a student there, then later posted a threat on social media, according to the chief.

Police and school officials reassured the community that there is no ongoing threat. Still, students and parents at both schools were on edge Friday.

“I heard that some kid was threatening to shoot up the school and Sunset,” said Copper Hills senior Devin Johnson.

“I just heard kids talking about how scared they were and their lives were kind of in danger,” Johnson added.

Doug Flagler, spokesman with the Jordan School District, said “it really is a credit to the SafeUT app working.” He said administrators took action overnight.

“Last night, we received a tip through the SafeUT app, our administrators did, and from there, they worked with law enforcement to ensure student safety,” Flagler said.

Since SafeUT launched in July 2017, school and law enforcement officials have received 804 tips of potential school threats about 536 different situations. In addition, nearly 90 tips were found to be fake or inaccurate.

“On average, we are receiving and responding to almost one potential school threat per day across the state,” Suzanne Winchester with University of Utah Health said in an email.

Chief Wallentine said students’ reports allowed police “to successfully intervene at an early stage.”

"What I really hope that parents and students will take away from this is that, for years, we’ve talked about, 'see something, say something,'" Wallentine said. "If you’re a teenager, or an elementary kid, a middle school kid, the SafeUT app is the medium that allows you to see something and say something, and that’s what happened here."

Here's a look behind the scenes at what happens when school threats are reported through the SafeUT app.

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