Teen accused of school threat

Details slim as affidavit sealed, but sheriff says threat was credible

The mother of a Palisade High School senior accused by authorities of unspecified threats against the school expressed shock at her son’s arrest and was still waiting late Tuesday to hear specifics from law enforcement about the case.

Darlene Johnson, 50, of Grand Junction, said her son Robert, 18, seemed lately in good spirits and “on top of the world,” while looking forward to joining the Navy upon graduation.

“That dream’s probably gone now,” Johnson told The Daily Sentinel on Tuesday. Johnson explained what she said she knew about her son’s arrest this way: “This is a group of kids who were talking about doing something at the school, (law enforcement) didn’t tell me what, how many were involved or when,” she said. “I don’t believe for a minute he would harm anyone or anything. That’s not a protective mother, that’s a mother who knows her son.”

Authorities confirmed little about the investigation. Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said they believed the threat was credible and involved “weapons and explosives” at the school.

When asked if others were under suspicion, Hilkey said the investigation is ongoing.
“If there was a legitimate plan (for attack at school), it has been disrupted,” he said.
Johnson’s arrest warrant affidavit was filed Tuesday under seal.

Johnson was booked into the Mesa County Jail just after 10 p.m. Monday on suspicion of felony criminal solicitation and a misdemeanor count of interfering with an educational institution.

During Johnson’s first court appearance Tuesday, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger told a judge the allegations were “profoundly disturbing,” and Johnson will likely be charged with additional felony counts of criminal attempt to commit a crime.

Hautzinger didn’t delve into specifics.

Johnson was ordered by County Court Judge Bruce Raaum to be held on $100,000 bond. A check of local and state criminal records show Johnson has no adult record. He turned 18 on Sept. 3.

The investigation has indicated alleged drug use on Johnson’s part, Hautzinger told the judge.

“That surprises me,” Darlene Johnson said Tuesday.

She said her son came home from school at a regular time late afternoon Monday. He told her he followed up on several job applications after he had recently lost a job at a local fast-food restaurant.

Law enforcement turned up at the home around 6:30 p.m., she said.

After an interview with Robert Johnson away from the home, officers returned and were granted permission to search the home, checking his bedroom and a family computer, Darlene Johnson said.

“They didn’t take anything,” she said.

Robert Johnson was arrested at the family’s home.

Darlene Johnson said her family moved to Grand Junction four years ago from the small town of Loma, Mont., and Robert initially struggled to adjust to the Grand Valley. She said she and her husband, Thomas, have a close relationship with their son.

“All of this came out of the blue,” she said. “I think he was just running his mouth and didn’t realize the gravity of what he was saying.”

Robert Johnson will be formally charged Oct. 8.


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