Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner said a coordinated effort by regional law enforcement officers helped to find the man whose online threat resulted in all area schools being placed in lock out Wednesday afternoon.
The code yellow lock out designation is designed to keep outside threats from entering the schools.
After a half-day investigation, the suspect was identified as Ian Michael Cooper, 21. He was located in Graham, Washington, east of Olympia, and interviewed Wednesday by Washington sheriff’s deputies.
Cooper told the investigators that when he wrote online “2 days without dark souls, I might go shoot up a school xo” he was making “a stupid comment.”
Lohner outlined in a press release how the decision was made about 1 p.m. Wednesday to lock students and staff inside their buildings as a precaution. Schools in Baker City, Halfway, Burnt River and Huntington and North Powder School in Union County were affected. Private schools also were included. The Head Start preschool, which is not part of the Baker School District, was inadvertently left out and that will be corrected during future emergency procedures, Lohner said.
The incident started when information came to the Baker County Dispatch Center through a second-hand report of a potential threat to schools about 1 p.m. Wednesday. The caller said Cooper made the threat and stated to an online gaming community that he lived in Baker City.
After receiving the information, police showed Cooper’s photo to employees at a Baker City gaming business, Lohner said. One of the workers had seen Cooper in the business within the last week. Another person had seen Cooper at the bowling alley several times recently.
Lohner said investigators were able to find Cooper’s Facebook page, which showed references to “666” and a photo of a person pointing a handgun at another person.
Those details led law enforcement officers to call the code yellow alert, Lohner said.
Cooper’s phone number was found on his Facebook site, which allowed deputies in the Washington area to make contact with him, Lohner said. Baker City’s email system went down for a short period hampering the investigation for a brief time, but it was back in operation shortly, Lohner said.
Investigators determined that Cooper was not in Baker City by about 5:20 p.m.
Lohner said he and Sheriff Travis Ash set up a command post at the police department as the investigation began. They worked to develop leads about the suspect’s whereabouts.
Officer Shannon Regan, Detective Jay Lohner and an Oregon State Police investigator worked with an FBI agent out of the Pendleton area to track Cooper’s whereabouts. Baker City Police Lt. Dustin Newman and Sheriff’s Department Lt. Jef Van Arsdall worked in the field to move law enforcement officers to their assigned schools to provide security.
As the school day ended, a systematic release of students was handled through cooperation of parents, staff, students and law enforcement officers, Lohner said.
Police are working with District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff and the FBI to determine whether there are any charges that might be brought against Cooper, Lohner said.
“I’m looking hard for a possible charge based on the incident,” Shirtcliff said Thursday. “If I can file it, I’m filing it.”
Shirtcliff said he also would be urging the Legislature to consider a law to fit these types of situations.
Lohner praised the efforts of those involved in the investigation.
“Everybody came together really fast to get a lot of resources out there,” he said. “Everybody worked really, really well together.”
The police chief said law enforcement will continue to work with the schools and parents to improve the safety policies and procedures already in place.