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Seattle teen faces felony charges for threat of mass school shooting

caption: Bellevue police arrested an 18-year old Seattle student Friday who is charged with felony harassment for threatening to conduct a shooting at Bellevue's Sammamish High School.
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Bellevue police arrested an 18-year old Seattle student Friday who is charged with felony harassment for threatening to conduct a shooting at Bellevue's Sammamish High School.

An 18-year-old Seattle student has been arrested and charged with two counts of felony harassment for threatening to shoot students at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. The recipient of the threats notified the school principal, and Bellevue School District initiated a lockdown Friday morning until the student who made the threats was arrested by Bellevue police at his home.

During that time, students were confined to their classrooms and police responded to the school building.

According to charging documents, the student, Isaiah Foster, threatened a student via Snapchat that he would come to Sammamish High School “with my guns” and included a photo of several long guns on a bed. Foster’s father later told police the photo was from a year and a half ago when the family moved to their current house. In court documents the father said he has sold the majority of his guns since then, and the remainder were turned over to Seattle police for safekeeping last week.

Isaiah Foster was carrying a rifle scope but no firearms at the time of his arrest. He is charged with felony harassment and felony cyber harassment of the Sammamish High School student. He was booked into King County jail Friday and a judge has agreed with prosecutors’ request that he be held on $1 million bail. His arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 22.

Foster came to the attention of police in November when he told a psychologist he was mentally preparing to carry out a shooting at Sammamish High School. The psychologist reported the threat to police, and as KUOW reported, a judge approved an extreme risk protection order banning Foster from having access to firearms.

At the time of the order, Foster’s father declined to surrender his own firearms, saying they would be secured in a safe. But charging documents indicate that he subsequently turned them all over to police.

After Foster’s arrest, Bellevue police obtained a search warrant for the student’s car and bedroom, which adjoined the family’s storage room with a gun safe. Foster’s father Ryan opened the safe for police “to confirm there were still no firearms in it,” only some piles of firearm accessories nearby, according to a certification for determination of probable cause.

His family told police Isaiah Foster’s focus on harming students at Sammamish High School dates from his previous enrollment at Interlake High School, where he said he was bullied by Sammamish students. According to charging documents, other schools in Bellevue were also placed on lockdown Friday due to Foster’s previous attendance at Interlake “and familiarity with local schools.”

Another Sammamish student received a message from Foster on Friday saying, “just go home,” without explaining why. According to charging documents, “This interaction was taken as further warning that Foster was attempting to follow through with coming to the school with firearms, but was warning someone to go home early.”

The documents say after police obtained the extreme risk protection order, Foster was evaluated by King County’s designated crisis responders, “and they had not taken him in for involuntary treatment.”

Foster’s parents told police that some students at Sammamish continue to “negatively engage with him including statements telling him he should kill himself.”

His parents said they and Isaiah “are aware of how troubling his thoughts and statements are.” They said their son has cooperated with efforts to get mental health treatment for him but they “keep hitting roadblocks within the mental health system.”

Seattle Police already activated "red flag" law for student

Seattle Police first sought an extreme risk protection order under the state’s red-flag law on Nov. 17, after Isaiah Foster told a psychologist that he intended to conduct a school shooting at Sammamish High School, targeting students as they changed classes to maximize the number of victims, and gauged his own readiness at an “8” on a scale of 1 to 10.

Foster told the psychologist he had spoken to a friend about acquiring a semiautomatic assault rifle, which is restricted to purchasers ages 21 and over. That psychologist alerted Seattle Police.

Seattle Police Officer Sandlin Grayson testified during the Nov. 29 court hearing about the protection order that he and a mental-health professional with SPD’s Crisis Response Team interviewed Foster after the psychologist’s report.

Grayson said Foster disclosed that he was a student at Ingraham High School in north Seattle “and the murder of Ebenezer Haile had impacted him significantly because they were in a class together and they were acquaintances or potentially friends.” (Two students are facing criminal charges in Haile’s death after he was shot and killed at the school on Nov. 8.)

According to Officer Grayson, Foster said he wanted to kill “a multitude of students” at Sammamish High School. Grayson said the student told him he “realized he didn’t need to specifically target those who had bullied him at Sammamish High School. That if he was to kill others, he knew those who had bullied him would feel the same pain or anguish knowing their friends had been killed as he had felt at the death of Ebenezer Haile.”

Grayson said the student “told me he has had a history of thinking about conducting mass killings.” In fact, just a few weeks before, the same student had told a different therapist that he wanted to place a bomb on I-5 so that vehicles would fall into the water off the Ship Canal Bridge. That therapist also reported that threat to SPD.

Grayson said SPD concluded that the student "had taken no steps that the Seattle Police Department is aware of to acquire a firearm." But Grayson said allowing the student to have access to firearms gives rise “to a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts.”

Grayson told the judge he was present when the student was served with a temporary extreme risk protection order on Nov. 17. At that time Foster “said he understood what it was and he commented – this is his quotes – ‘This is really helpful to know that I couldn’t get anything even if I wanted to.’”

Grayson added, “So it was my interpretation that he took some reassurance knowing that even if he felt a desire to go acquire a firearm, he would be prevented from doing so by the existence of the court order.”

Judge Samuel Chung said he agreed with police and prosecutors that Foster would pose a significant danger to himself or others if he were allowed access to firearms. His approval of a permanent order means that Foster is banned from having or purchasing firearms for the next year. The order could be renewed in the future.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or considering self-harm, call or text 988 for help. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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