February 21, 2023

Multi-Agency Press Conference Addressing School Threats in the El Paso Area

EL PASO, TX—In an effort to address the alarming surge in social media threats directed towards El Paso schools, law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies came together to show the safety of El Paso’s children is paramount and threats directed towards El Paso schools will not be tolerated.

In 2022, there were almost 6,000 school threats reported to the FBI, which is a 60% increase from 2021. Across El Paso, law enforcement agencies are diverting resources to address a minimum of three threats a day from each school across region 19 school districts.

“Collaboration and cooperation among all of our law enforcement partners is the key to keeping our students safe and thriving in our community,” said El Paso Independent School District Chief of Police Manuel Chavira. “Familiarity in our communications and consistency in our law enforcement responses ensures efficiency and effectiveness in all operational activities.”

“Any threats made towards schools, whether online, over the phone or in person, will be immediately investigated,” said El Paso Police Department Interim Police Chief Peter Pacillas. “These school threats often begin as hoaxes on social media, but their impact is far from a joke. When precious resources are diverted from genuine emergencies to deal with false alarms, lives are put at risk. Threatening a school carries severe consequences—both for the safety of our children and their families.”

“The District Attorney’s Office takes violence in our schools, or the threat of violence, very seriously and is committed to prosecuting those involved with severe prejudice,” said El Paso County District Attorney Bill Hicks. “If a person acts out their threat and takes a firearm to a school it is a 3rd Degree Felony offense with possible punishment of up to 10 years in a prison facility. Our schools have to be and will be a safe place for all of our children and young people to study and learn.”

“As a community we need to ensure our children feel safe in their schools and remind those who threaten our children law enforcement will find you and bring you to justice,” said FBI El Paso Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey R. Downey. “As a parent of school age children, I recognize the importance for us all to remain vigilant. We need to talk with our children about what is going on at school and ensure we report any threats or safety concerns to law enforcement and school officials immediately.”

“These initiatives, and the united partnerships of law enforcement officials at the local and federal levels, are incredibly important to ensuring communities across the country are kept safe,” said El Paso Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose Luis Gonzalez of the Western District of Texas. “We as law enforcement officials are surely not the only ones united today. I trust that I speak for all of us when I say this country is fed up with violence in our schools, and we will not tolerate threats against them. Together, we can create a safe and peaceful learning environment for everyone.”

Any member of the community can report threats to law enforcement in many ways. If there is an immediate threat to life, please call 911. All other tips can be reported to your preferred law enforcement agency. The City of El Paso has several methods established and are monitored 24/7 by law enforcement personnel: (915) 832-4400 or text 847-411 with “EPPD and then tip”. You can also download the “El Paso PD” app to text tips and receive alerts. The FBI can also receive tips at tips.fbi.gov or at (915) 832-5000.

The press conference was held at the City of El Paso’s Emergency Operations Center/911 Call Center located at 6055 Threadgill Ave.

The multi-agency press conference involved United States Attorney Office Western District of Texas (USAO-WDTX) Jose Luis Gonzalez, the Federal Bureau of Investigation El Paso Field Office (FBI), Texas Department of Public Safety-West Texas Region (TXDPS), El Paso County District Attorney Bill Hicks, El Paso County Attorney’s Office, El Paso Police Department (EPPD), El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPCSO), El Paso County Constable-Precinct 1, Horizon City Police Department (HCPD), Socorro Police Department (SPD), Anthony Police Department, El Paso Office of Emergency Management (EP-OEM), El Paso Independent School District Police Department, Canutillo Independent School District Police Department, Ysleta Independent School District Police Department, and the Socorro Independent School District-Emergency Operations Program (SISD-EOP).

In attendance from each agency was: EPISD Police Chief Manual Chavira, EPPD Interim Police Chief Peter Pacillas, El Paso County District Attorney Bill Hicks, FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey R. Downey, USAO-WDTX City Chief Jose Luis Gonzalez, El Paso County Attorney-Juvenile Trial Team Chief Emily Dawson, TXDPS Regional Director-West Texas Region Jose Sanchez, EPCSO Commander Ryan Urrutia, El Paso County Constable-Precinct 1 Oscar Ugarte, HCPD Police Chief Marco Vargas, Anthony Police Department Lieutenant Oswaldo Gomez, Socorro Police Department Officer Sophia Rivera, El Paso Community College Police Chief Jose Rameriz, Ysleta Independent School District Security/Police Department Sergeant R. Lozano, and Socorro Independent School District Police Chief George Johnson.