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Boone Police Department increased its visibility at Watauga High School this week in response to text message threats received by several students. Photo by Kellen Moore.




Originally published: 2012-04-05 12:00:03
Last modified: 2012-04-05 18:00:54

UPDATE: Two WHS students arrested

Boone Police Department has arrested two high school students on suspicion that they were recruiting students to participate in a gang-related fight.

Enrique Rivera Alvarez, 17, and Noe Hernandez Lopez, 19, were charged with felony soliciting gang activity, a violation of the N.C. Street Gang Suppression Act, according to police.

Alvarez was arrested at school Wednesday, while Lopez was taken into custody Thursday by Blowing Rock police while on a school field trip, said Sgt. Matt Stevens of the Boone Police Department.

Both were issued $10,000 secured bonds and are scheduled to appear in court May 17.

The investigation began this week when a group of students notified School Resource Officer Bradley Swift late Tuesday that they had received threats via text messages, according to police.

The person or group of people sending the texts — some of which mentioned gang activity and weapons — threatened to harm the students Wednesday, and the text message recipients were worried that the unknown person or group would come to the school, police said.

Extra officers were stationed at Watauga High School on Wednesday and Thursday in response to rumors of that possible fight.

Stevens said police believe that Alvarez and Lopez were attempting to gather people to their "side" to combat any possible attack that might have been directed at them due to their perceived gang involvement.

Investigation is still continuing to determine who sent the text messages. Police have already questioned one person and plan to review cell phone records and conduct more interviews with Alvarez and Lopez, Stevens said.

While the arrests bring some resolution, Stevens said police will continue to be vigilant and may decide to keep an increased presence at the school this week. He emphasized that the department is working to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to gang violence.

"The school's not got a big gang problem as far as we know," Stevens said, adding that the level of gang activity in an area can be hard to assess. "The problem is not as great as in some bigger communities like Charlotte, but we're mindful that it can be and is becoming a problem."

The threat of violence caused several families to keep their children out of school on Wednesday, but Interim Superintendent Dick Jones said more than 90 percent of students were present.

"This was a veiled threat that we took seriously simply because we feel like we have to," he said Wednesday. "It's just a very safe day at the school. We don't have any reason to believe that won't continue."

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