A Cherry Creek parent’s Facebook interaction with a man who lives outside the school district led to an investigation of a “perceived bomb threat” that pushed the district to move the Feb. 14 school board meeting to a “location under secured perimeter,” according to the district and a police report.
In a Facebook messenger conversation, Donald Laconte, a 55-year-old Denver man, asked Molly Lamar, 47, about the location of West Middle School, where a Feb. 14 Cherry Creek school board meeting was set to take place in Greenwood Village.
“When Don asks where the school is he replies with a thumb’s up emoji, a ‘bomb’ emoji, and the ‘bang’ emoji. Molly then gives Don the address and time of the meeting,” according to a Greenwood Village police report provided to Colorado Community Media.
Authorities on the night of Feb. 11 became aware of interaction between Laconte and Lamar through Safe2Tell, an anonymous reporting tip line and online platform commonly used in school communities, according to Greenwood Village police.
“Don responds to all of Molly’s angry posts with comments like … ‘Maam it’s getting closer to ignition I’m right beside all the way Happy Vday,’” police cite the Safe2Tell report as saying.
It did not appear that Laconte made a “direct threat,” but based on the emoji and the use of the word “ignition,” an officer believed the situation should be reviewed by police and Cherry Creek School District security, the police report says.
Lamar made a post about the Cherry Creek district, and Laconte commented on the post and included a “bomb, explosion, and thumbs up emoji,” another part of the police report says. It’s unclear in the report whether officers were referring to two separate interactions by mentioning a post and a conversation.
Another officer called Lamar to discuss the post and concern surrounding it, according to the report.
Lamar, who lives in the Greenwood Village area, told the officer that she is a “vocal parent who often stands up for what she believes in,” the report says.
“As of recent she has been vocal about the CCSD teachers union and this has caused some people to not like her,” the report says. “During the last (Cherry Creek) school board election she supported a candidate by the name of Jen Gibbons.”
During the Gibbons campaign, Lamar would often comment on posts Gibbons made, and Laconte would also comment on the posts, according to the report. Incumbent Kelly Bates won the race over Gibbons in the election that ended Nov. 2.
Laconte also started commenting on things “she posted on her own page,” the report says, appear to refer to Lamar.
At some point, Lamar accepted a Facebook friend request from Laconte but did not realize it until now, the report cites Lamar as saying.
“Don often commented on her post with emojis and often they were the same bomb, explosion, and thumbs up emojis,” the report says.
Lamar had “never thought much of it” based on speaking to Laconte online, the report adds. Lamar has never met Laconte in person, she told police.
“Molly was very receptive to my call and understood where there the emojis could be alarming,” the second officer wrote in the report.
By phone, Laconte told police he understood why what he wrote could be concerning and that he “certainly never meant it to taken that way,” the report says.
Laconte told police he recently took an interest in Cherry Creek School District.
He “has never actually attended a CCSD board meeting,” the report says.
“He would never harm anyone on the board or at the district and has no intentions of bombing anyone,” the report cites Laconte as saying. “He uses those emojis because he thinks Molly is a firecracker and appreciates her standing up for what he believes in.”
Laconte thought about attending the Feb. 14 board meeting but “did not have a good way to get there and now thought that it might be a bad idea given the concerns,” the report says. “He was very apologetic and thanked me for talking with him.”
The perceived threat originated from “an individual with a documented criminal history,” a post on the school board meeting webpage said.
Laconte has a lengthy court history, online court records show. In part, that includes pleading guilty to an assault charge in 2014, pleading guilty to criminal mischief in 2019, pleading guilty to menacing in 2019 and pleading guilty to “felony menacing-real/simulated weapon” in 2010, according to the records.
The Cherry Creek school board held its Feb. 14 regular meeting at a “location under secured perimeter” due to what the district called a perceived bomb threat that targeted the school board meeting, according to a post on the school board meeting webpage.
Greenwood Village police investigated the situation and didn’t find any credible threats, so the police department was not taking further action, according to police Cmdr. Joe Gutgsell.
No schools or other district buildings were put on lockdown or secure perimeter related to the perceived threat, Abbe Smith, district spokesperson, said on Feb. 14.
Some schools were on secure perimeter status in Aurora for reasons unrelated to the perceived threat, but they were taken off that status, Smith said on Feb. 14.
The concerns of a threat in Cherry Creek came against the backdrop of threats sent to Littleton Public Schools Superintendent Brian Ewert and the Littleton school board — including death threats — following controversy over a district-hosted COVID vaccine clinic.
Those threats began shortly after two videos surfaced showing a 15-year-old Littleton High School student and a 16-year-old homeschooled student lying to clinic staff at Heritage High School on Jan. 21 about age and parental consent as part of a deliberate attempt to shut down the clinic.
The perceived threat to the Cherry Creek school board did not appear to be connected to the threats that the Littleton school district recently received, Smith said.
A Jefferson County school board study session on Feb. 9 was abruptly closed to the public, and the Jefferson County Education Center was secured due to a direct threat made against Superintendent Tracy Dorland and district leadership. In the notice about that incident sent to families of district students, no further information was given.
Cherry Creek Superintendent Christopher Smith was “disturbed and saddened” that the Cherry Creek board couldn’t hold its meeting as planned, but given recent threats made against nearby school districts, Cherry Creek needed to take the potential threat seriously, he said during the Feb. 14 meeting.
“We’re making sure we’re keeping not only ourselves but our community safe,” Superintendent Smith said.
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