By Joe Rutherford
The arrest in Oxford this week of a man accused of plotting to replicate the horrific 1999 attacks at Denver’s Columbine High School at Oxford High School underscores the importance of vigilance on the Internet – and face to face – when threats are made against life and property.
Federal officials responded quickly and with full legal force in the arrest of Joshua Brandon Pillault after contacts in Virginia and England gave notice that a person in Oxford had made the threats in an Internet game called Runescape.
Pillault, who attended but did not graduate from Oxford High School, will undergo a psychiatric evaluation under order of the U.S. District Court for Northern Mississippi.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Norman asked the court late Wednesday to order a psychiatric evaluation on suspicion that he may be suffering from a mental illness that could prevent him from helping defend himself.
“Ask me anything about the massacre. I know it all,” the online chat reads. “I can’t wait to blow brains out of skulls.”
The arrest was made after Senior Judge Mike Mills signed FBI Special Agent Daniel C. Blount’s affidavit, which charges Pillault with using interstate and foreign communication to make threats to injure people and destroy buildings by explosives.
Such copycat threats, surely empowered by the ease and endless availability of the Internet, never should be taken lightly.
Earlier this month, in an apparently unrelated case, Spanish police arrested a man on suspicion that he planned to imitate the 1999 Columbine killings by planting bombs around a university campus on Mallorca, an island off Spain’s coast.
The suspect, identified only by his initials, had more than 300 pounds of bomb-making material when they arrested the 21-year-old man in Palma de Mallorca on Oct. 4. Police, in published reports, added that, in his personal diary and blog, the man – a Spaniard only identified by JMMS – talked of admiration for the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre and how he planned to place several bombs around a campus of the University of the Balearic Islands in Palma.
Bomb threats at Mississippi high schools earlier this fall are just as serious. No explosives were found, but what if bombs had been detonated?
Caution, always caution.