Threat suspect in Sylvania is ‘a good kid’

By Joshua Benton and Mark Reiter
Blade Staff Writers

Page 1

An honor student with no previous disciplinary record is facing charges of inducing a panic after he allegedly threatened to blow up Sylvania’s Northview and Southview high schools.

“He’s a good kid who made a bad choice,” said Kevin Gorman, principal of Northview, where Nicholas Arvanitis, 18, is a senior. “People don’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth.”

Mr. Arvanitis, 18, was arraigned yesterday in Sylvania Municipal Court. He was released on a $15,000 bond.

Just two months ago, he had spent a day following a Sylvania Township police officer to learn about careers in law enforcement.

“This is the kind of kid I would want to have for a son,” said Sergeant John Bartko, the officer with whom Mr. Arvanitis spent the day. “He is the last person I would expect to do this kind of thing.”

In the last 48 hours, the student has had a different kind of contact with local authorities. On Wednesday evening, Sylvania police searched his home, seized his computer, and placed him under arrest.

If convicted of the third-degree felony, he could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

“His world just collapsed last night at 9:30 p.m.,” Sylvania Chief Gerald Sobb said yesterday.

Mr. Arvanitis, of 1638 Delmonte Dr., appeared in Sylvania Municipal Court Judge M. Scott Ramey’s court yesterday, wearing a dark green sweatshirt and baggy khaki trousers.

His eyes were puffy. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing, remaining emotionless with his head down throughout the arraignment.

He was there, police said, because he was responsible for the threat that caused both high schools to close yesterday.

The threat – that “the time for REVENGE is near,” “Sylvania NORTHVIEW and SOUTHVIEW will fall,” and “Columbine’s death toll will seem VERY SMALL” – was printed on a web page Mr. Arvanitis allegedly created on Angelfire, a California-based free web page service.

On Tuesday, Sylvania Superintendent Les Schultz received an anonymous e-mail alerting him to the presence of the web page. After he viewed the page, which said the threat would be carried out yesterday, Mr. Schultz alerted Sylvania police, who began tracking down the creator of the web page.

According to Sylvania Detective Mike Yunker, the first step in track|ing down the source was getting subpoenas through Lucas County prosecutors to obtain records on the source of the information from Angelfire.

Detective Yunker said information from Angelfire linked the page to Mr. Arvanitis’s local Internet service provider.

Police obtained an another warrant from prosecutors to obtain the phone number of the computer user who posted the message.

Detective Yunker said the phone number to the service provider is registered in Mr. Arvanitis’s name.

“We were able to track it back to his residence. It was a complicated process of tracking where he had been, and we did it in reverse order,” he said.

In addition, further tracking allowed police to discover that the anonymous e-mail sent to the superintendent had been sent by Mr. Arvanitis, Chief Sobb said.

Shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sylvania police arrived at his home, seized his computer, and placed him under arrest.

Yesterday, police squads from Sylvania Township and the city swept through both high schools, searching for explosives. Later, a bomb-sniffing dog was deployed. No explosives or were found.

According to police, Mr. Arvanitis told them he had posted the website as a prank. He admitted to using the computer in his bedroom to create the web page, police said.

Through his attorney, Wesley Miller, Jr., Mr. Arvanitis and his parents, Anthony and Cynthia Arvanitis, refused to comment.

“All I can say is that his family is seriously shocked at what happened,” Mr. Miller said.

He said Mr. Arvanitis is “a good student,” and “he is not holding up well.”

He said the recent media attention surrounding the Colorado school shooting has encouraged officials to crack down harder on this sort of incident.

“If this type of case would have happened six months ago we would not be standing here talking. We certainly would not have a felony charge.”

Mr. Arvanitis had been a student at Northview since 1995. He had attended Little Flower School before that. According to the resume he gave Sylvania police, he has worked as a receptionist at Champion Manufacturing in Toledo and in the kitchen of two local golf clubs.

Under “Interests and Activities,” he lists: “I enjoy jogging, bike riding, and rollerblading. Also, I like to play on computers.”

Mr. Gorman described Mr. Arvanitis as “an `A’ and `B’ student” who had never before been any trouble.

Mr. Arvanitis attended Sylvania schools even though he lived in Toledo, outside Sylvania’s school district.

Mr. Schultz said the boy had given the school a fake address on Statesville Drive and that the school was investigating whether it would require payment of back tuition.

Mr. Gorman said it had not been decided what sort of disciplinary action would be taken against the student or whether he would be allowed to graduate from high school in June.

“I think the consequences should be severe,” Mr. Gorman said. “He’s made kids feel unsafe about coming to school.”

Chief Sobb said that his department’s investigation is focusing on finding any other students who might have been involved in the threat.

Yesterday, police seized the computer of another Sylvania high school student they believe might have been involved and who agreed to have his home searched. No additional arrests have been made.

The chief said the investigation would likely continue into next week.

Sylvania schools will be taking several steps to improve security at its high schools when they reopen today. Most prominent is the decision to place an armed police officer in each high school, every day for the remainder of the school year.

The cost to the school district will be $7,500, officials said. The district will decide next month whether to keep the officers for future school years.

Also, several doors at both high schools that had previously been left unlocked during school hours will be locked.

Sylvania Township police said Mr. Arvanitis participated in the township’s job sharing program two months ago.

Under the program, high school seniors shadow officers to get a first-hand look at life on the force.

Sergeant Bartko said the teenager rode along with him in a police cruiser for six hours of an eight-hour shift in late February or early March.

He said they had lunch, and he showed the teenager how to run radar and laser guns to monitor traffic.

Sergeant Bartko said the young man made a very good impression.

“The kid is decent and very clean cut,” he said.

“This is the farthest thing from my mind I would expect from a kid like this. This kid rode next to me. This has got me back on my heels. I am totally beside myself on this one,” Sergeant Bartko said.

Sylvania schools are not the only ones dealing with a bomb threat.

A bomb threat telephoned in to Nathan Hale Elementary School, 1800 Upton Ave., yesterday morning forced the evacuation of 1,000 students and 75 staff while police searched the building. No explosives were found, Assistant Principal Martin Johnson said.

“This environment we’ve got now is just created for these people to come out,” Mr. Johnson said. Notes would be sent home with the children explaining the incident to parents, he said.

And on Wednesday morning at Jones Junior High School, 550 Walbridge Ave. in South Toledo, police found a bomb threat written on the wall of a boys’ bathroom. After the school received a telephone threat saying the bombs would go off at noon, officials evacuated the building on the premise of a fire drill.

The school was searched, and no explosives were found. Students were allowed to return to their classes.

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