In Rochester, New York, police arrested Abigail Hernandez -- 21-year-old student in the Rochester City School District -- who is accused of making a credible threat against East High School. In a Friday news conference, Deputy Mayor Dr. Cedric Alexander and Deputy Chief La'Ron Singletary addressed the arrest. Police received notice from Rochester City School District staff late afternoon on February 16 about a threat published on the East High School Facebook page. The threat said, "I’m coming tomorrow morning and I’m going to shoot all of ya bitches.”
Hernandez was not registered as a student at East High School. Municipal officials could not say why a 21-year-old woman would be a student in the Rochester City School District.
At the news conference, RPD Deputy Chief Singletary acknowledged that investigators needed several days to identify the threats, which came from a fictitious social media account. Once police went to Abigail Hernandez’s residence on February 20, a shotgun was found there. However, police did not say whether Hernandez owned the gun or if it was registered to anyone else living in the home.
As a result, Hernandez was arrested and stands charged with making a terroristic threat. Hernandez was placed in custody in the Monroe County Jail in lieu of $15,000 bail. She has no prior arrests on record.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents subsequently determined that Hernandez is an illegal immigrant who is a recipient of the the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA program allows certain people who immigrated to the U.S. as minors, and who fulfil a number of guidelines, are eligible for deferred action on deportation or other action for at least two years, and are eligible for renewal. While they are given work permits, DACA status does not mean that they are lawfully present in the U.S.
Since her arrest, Hernandez was remanded to a federal immigration detention facility in Batavia, New York. She will remain in custody there until a hearing is scheduled. Mayor Alexander said at a news conference that federal immigration officials had found out about Hernandez on an automated online database. Recently, Rochester affirmed its status as a "sanctuary city," which means that city authorities will not typically share immigration information with federal authorities.
A statement released by the Rochester Police Department praised the work of school staff and police. "The quick thinking of school staff and the tenacious work of the investigators of the police department following through on this Facebook post lead to the arrest of Abigail Hernandez and the recovery of a shotgun," it said.
On Friday, East High School Superintendent Shaun Nelms released a statement:
“Sadly, in wake of the recent Parkland, Florida tragedy, schools across the country have been grappling with social media threats intended to instill fear and anxiety. While we cannot comment on this particular police investigation around a threat made to East, I want to stress how fortunate we are to be part of a community in which the police department works closely with schools to ensure the safety of the entire school community. We remain very grateful to the Rochester Police Department for their partnership and for keeping us well informed throughout the entire process. Their presence on campus last week and their guidance on how to best keep staff and students safe during this efficient, successful police investigation reiterates their ongoing support. As always, the safety of students and staff is our top priority.”
Both of Hernandez's parents are legal permanent residents, according to local reports. Two of her siblings are U.S. citizens. Her parents claim that she entered the U.S. at the age of three, and that she has limited cognitive ability.
On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to consider the Trump administration's appeal of a lower court ruling that requires the government to keep the DACA program in place. The decision keeps in effect an order by a federal appeals court that requires that the Department of Homeland Security must continue to accept renewal applications from the approximately 700,000 currently enrolled. While administration had intended to terminate DACA by March 5, the deadline is now moot. In its announcement, the court said, "It is assumed the court of appeals will act expeditiously to decide this case." Congress now has more time to devise a legislative response, despite having failed thus far.