BHS senior appears in court here Tuesday to face charge of making a terroristic threat
UPDATE 3/01/18: Online court records show that Derek Beaver was released from custody Tuesday on a supervised bond after appearing in court with defense attorney C. Lee Pipkins.
After spending the weekend in the Ozark County Jail with a $100,000 cash-only bond, a Bakersfield High School senior was arraigned Tuesday morning before Ozark County Associate Circuit Judge Cynthia MacPherson on a Class D felony charge of making a terroristic threat at Bakersfield School.
Derek Beaver, 19, of Bakersfield, was arrested Friday at the school shortly after superintendent Amy Britt notified the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office that a parent had called BHS principal Doyne Byrd to report a threat allegedly made by Beaver.
“Once we receive a threat, we immediately take action to ensure no weapons are on campus,” Britt told the Times Monday. “An administrator begins the investigation, and if it is determined that a threat was made, law enforcement and parents of the student who made the threat are notified.”
Ozark County Sheriff’s Deputies Winston Collins and Curt Dobbs responded to Britt’s call, and Beaver was arrested without incident at the school.
Threats to ‘carry out a school shooting’
The charging document, filed by Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant, says Beaver, “with the intent to frighten ten or more people, knowingly communicated to at least three classmates a threat to cause a school shooting, … by telling the classmates that defendant had access to semi-automatic and fully automatic firearms and that he intended to use the firearms to ‘shoot up the school’ because no one there liked him.”
According to the probable cause statement in the case, written by Dobbs, he was told by school officials that “they had several reports from students indicating Derek Beaver was making threats to bring a firearm to the Bakersfield School and carry out a school shooting.” In the statement, Dobbs said he also interviewed several students who had “witnessed the threatening behavior.”
One student said that in January, Beaver had said, “Dude, I’m going to shoot up this school.” The student said he had heard Beaver make similar statements “as early as September 2017,” the statement says, adding that the student “also observed Mr. Beaver boast about having an M-16 rifle, AK-47 and other firearms.”
Another student told the deputies he heard Beaver say he was going to “shoot up the school,” according to the statement Another student told Dobbs he had “witnessed Mr. Beaver with firearms at his residence,” the statement says
“Multiple other student[s] were subsequently interviewed and observed similar implied threats of violence surrounding an active school shooter event,” Dobbs said in the statement.
If convicted of the Class D felony, Beaver could be sentenced to up to seven years’ imprisonment.
Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed said Monday, “I just can’t say enough about how well Bakersfield staff and Dr. Britt handled this situation. As soon as it was reported, they called us. They followed every protocol, and because of that no kids were ever in any danger.”
In a Facebook post Friday night announcing Beaver’s arrest, Reed said, “This is the second call of this nature in the past week.” He said Monday he could not release any information about the “second call” except to say it was not at any school, and no school was mentioned or listed. “It was just an idea,” he told the Times. The case is being investigated, and an unidentified suspect was being held in the Ozark County Jail in relation to the second incident.
Britt stressed that Bakersfield had received only the one threat.
‘It broke my heart’
Bakersfield senior Mariah Burnett told the Times Monday that students were “all kind of in shock” Friday afternoon after the school used automated calls to notify parents of the threat. The news trickled back to the students during the last two hours of the day, and “as soon as the teachers figured out that we knew, they were there for us. They said, ‘If you need to talk about this, we’ll talk about it,’” Mariah said.
Derek Beaver is “one of my really good friends,” she said. On Friday morning, “he hugged me and told me he loved me, like he does every day. When they said it was Derek [who made the threat], I was completely shocked. It broke my heart.”
Mariah said she’s praying that her friend “gets the help he needs.” And she wanted to say “that people’s negative comments on social media about Derek have personally affected the faculty and students at Bakersfield High School. It’s unfortunate people judge someone without knowing all the facts,” she said.
Mariah said she appreciated how the situation was handled by her school, which she has attended since preschool.
“The school followed protocol and made sure we were safe,” she said. “We do intruder drills, really good ones that make you feel like someone is in the building. We had an intruder drill not too long ago. The teachers acted fast, and everyone was serious. Then, after the drill, we talked about it, and they gave us more tips. They prepare us for anything. They’re straight up about it. They prepare us for anything that could happen.”
Monday morning, “We ate breakfast at school, like normal,” Mariah said. “Then the teachers handed out a paper that was ‘Tips for Coping.’ We had a short assembly. All the high school students went into the gym, and Ms. Britt told us we don’t need to spread rumors but we do need to be a support for each other.”
Counselors from other area schools had come to Bakersfield “so we all could reach out to different people and get opinions. You could meet with them privately or in a group,” Mariah said. “Then we all went to GAP class, like homeroom. We sat and talked and cried and discussed. Then we wrote down examples of how we could better our school and how we could feel safer. The teachers took those suggestions to the administration.”
Mariah, who’s been accepted to the University of Missouri and plans to be a nurse practitioner, said Monday she was glad to see “several deputies on campus today, roaming the halls and walking around between classes and checking cars. I personally loved that. It made me feel safer,” she said. “I think our school really does care about our safety. Students are the No. 1 priority. I’m blessed to go to school in Bakersfield.”
The school’s response
Amy Britt said Monday that the school had “added multiple layers of security; some are physical and some are electronic.” The school also “had meetings with students grouped by age-appropriateness. ... We told the kids we are here to support all of them and we will get through this together.”
Some social media posts after Beaver’s arrest had mentioned bullying as an issue in the incident, but Britt said the school had received no reports about bullying in this case. “This is concerning to us because if it is, as it has been described on social media, we needed to know this!” she said in an email to the Times.
Faculty members reviewed with their students the definition of bullying – “a repeated effort to make another individual feel inferior or to put someone down” – and reviewed several examples of “what was bullying and what was annoying or just plain rude,” Britt said, adding that “bullying is very serious, and we want to know when it happens. We need to know when it happens.”
The school has implemented a new incident report procedure to be used in documenting bullying, she said. When bullying is reported, the form, without the reporting person’s or victim’s name, is sent to the parents. “Additional discipline information will also come to parents, as is normal routine,” she said.
Britt, who hosts a community coffee from 4 to 6 p.m. every first Monday of the month, said the next coffee, on March 5, will be devoted to school safety and bullying. All parents and members of the community are invited.