Keaau High School student charged with terroristic threatening



Police officers on the scene at Keaau Elementary and Intermediate School after the school was on lockdown. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

Police stand in front of Keaau High School on Tuesday as students walk to class after the school was locked down due to a threat allegedly made by a student. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

A lockdown at four Keaau schools Tuesday morning ended with no one injured and a 17-year-old Keaau High School student arrested by police.

According to Lt. Robert Pauole of the Hilo Juvenile Aid Section, the teenage boy — who wasn’t publicly identified because he’s a juvenile — was taken into custody and charged with first-degree terroristic threatening.


Pauole said the teen is in the custody of state sheriff’s deputies and will be taken to the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility on Oahu for detention.

The initial verbal threat was made in-person, police said, and later followed up with a general threat the suspect allegedly posted online.

Pauole declined to elaborate on the specific nature of the threats, although police said it involved the threatened use of a firearm.

“We still have some additional follow-up to take care of, as well as a search warrant on an electronic device,” Pauole said.

First-degree terroristic threatening is a Class C felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, upon conviction.

Puna patrol officers responded to Keaau High School shortly after 8:30 a.m. for a reported threat involving a student who was believed to be armed. As officers arrived, the juvenile was spotted within a vehicle on campus. He immediately fled from campus on foot into a nearby forested area, police said.

In addition to Keaau High, Keaau Elementary and Intermediate schools, plus Ke Kula ‘o Nawahiokalaniopuu Hawaiian language immersion public charter school, went into immediate lockdown.

“That was really just a precaution,” Dean Cevallos, Keaau High School principal, said about extending the lockdown to the other three complex-area schools. “We just wanted to make sure that they were already in the lockdown situation in case the student fled, which he did. So we let them know ahead of time.”

Police immediately set up a perimeter encompassing two schools and the adjoining forested area. Officers located the student, who wasn’t armed, and arrested him at about 10:45 a.m.

“Our students were really good,” Cevallos said. “I think we were lucky that it wasn’t at recess or lunch, so we didn’t have to shove them inside buildings. They were already inside buildings. So that was good. They and the teachers have been through the drills. We go through them yearly, so they know what to do. And the custodians were good.

“I think our staff did a really good job of making sure our kids were safe.”

Once the students were deemed safe, parents were notified via the Department of Education’s School Messenger computer program, Cevallos said.

Asked what the school’s options are for dealing with the student, if and when he returns, Cevallos replied, “The state just did this whole risk assessment protocol. So, while he is away, I will have a team of people who are involved with him make that risk assessment.

“And we will make that decision based on what we get off that risk assessment.”

Police ask anyone with information about the incident to call the department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311. Those who prefer anonymity may call Crime Stoppers at (808) 961-8300. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Email John Burnett at

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