D.C. watchdog group spots Merrill school shooting threat, calls - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

D.C. watchdog group spots Merrill school shooting threat, calls police


MERRILL (WAOW) - A tweet from a Merrill High School student threatening to shoot up his school, was spotted by a watchdog group out of Washington, D.C.

The Tactical Institute monitors social media 24-hours a day, all over the country.

Even with offices in D.C. they were able to spot a threat all the way in Merrill, WI.

They spotted the Merrill tweet within minutes of it being posted online.  First they called the district but didn't make progress, so they called the Merrill Police Department.

"We went immediately to Merrill PD, we felt time was of the essence and they were great," said Tactical Institute founder Bob Dowling, "they immediately got on the phone with us, took the information down, made instant notification to the school resource officer and handled it very, very professionally."

The group has been operating for a year, and is not very well known.

They hire combat veterans and use technology available to the public to track threats on social media.

The tweet containing the threat didn't have a name attached, but the group was able to track down the student because he was wearing a Merrill shirt in his picture.

When they checked his account, they saw months of angry tweets along with the shooting threats, threats of suicide, and pictures of the boy with guns.

They are left wondering why it took so long for anyone to notice the threat.

"Why was this not detected before?" said Dowling, "How is it that this kid continues to go to school every day with threats of suicide and mass casualties at his school, tweeting it publicly and it goes on persistently?"

The group says they've stopped more than a dozen school shootings around the country. They are a private, for-profit group that is not affiliated with any government agency.

The group was paying particularly close attention to social media Friday because of the date. They say dates like Friday the 13th or the Columbine anniversary of April 20th make it more likely there will be a shooting.

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