Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse: “We don't think it was a credible threat"

A Rolla man is in police custody after saying a white teacher should be killed while talking to a group of people at a Rolla shopping plaza late Monday morning.

The man, whose name was not released, was walking by a group of people in the Forum Plaza at 10th Street and Forum Drive when he made the comment, "Today would be a good day to kill a white teacher," according to Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse.

Kearse said the man who made the threat is white. No specific name of any teacher or school was mentioned, Kearse said.

"We don't think it was a credible threat," the police chief said. As of Monday afternoon, Kearse said he does not believe charges will be filed against the man.

The group of people who heard the statement asked a local business to contact the Rolla police about the comment. The department was contacted around 11:40 a.m.

After the RPD was contacted, an officer and patrol car were placed in front of each school. Kearse said all public and private schools and universities in Rolla were contacted about the threat.

Dr. Aaron Zalis, superintendent of the Rolla Public Schools, said all of the district's buildings were placed on "secure mode," which allows limited access to buildings. "Secure mode" is different than a lockdown.

"We tried to maintain as much normalcy as possible," Zalis said, noting the "secure mode" was in effect for about less than an hour.

Because of the weather, Zalis said, staff were not planning to let students in the younger grades go outside for recess anyway Monday.

After police officers conducted interviews of witnesses and "saturated the area," Kearse said police went to the man's residence. After talking with the individual who made the threat, police took the man into custody.

"He doesn't have access to firearms and didn't have any firearms with him," Kearse said, adding that the man is known to have made exaggerated statements before.

Zalis said the schools' principals thank the police for responding quickly to the incident.