Crime

Five students were charged Tuesday in relation to a video posted to social media threatening several Belgrade School District students.

Education officials initiated a shelter-in-place Tuesday afternoon for all the schools in Belgrade city limits after students told school administrators about a threatening video that included a handgun, according to officials.

Belgrade Police were contacted at 12:59 p.m. and three officers responded within two minutes to Belgrade High School, Chief of Police E.J. Clark said.

At the time, it was unclear to police and school leaders whether a firearm was present at the high school. Belgrade Police, Montana Highway Patrol and the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office surrounded the school, Clark said. The shelter-in-place was lifted at 4 p.m. after law enforcement determined the situation was safe, Superintendent Godfrey Saunders said.

“The welfare of our students and staff is our number one priority,” Saunders said in an email.

The threat stemmed from a video posted to social media that showed four students – three girls and a boy – yelling insults and racial slurs aimed at students listed in the post along with a caption that read, “Should have kept yo mouth shut.”

The group is seen throwing mock punches and kicks and the boy is pulling the trigger and cocking a pistol. All talked of beating up the students listed in the video.

The four juvenile students in the video are charged with felony intimidation, Clark said. The fifth charge, felony tampering with physical evidence, is for senior David James Oster who didn’t take part in the video but hid the handgun and lied to police about it. (See sidebar story.)

Oster was featured in a Belgrade News story in April on his acceptance into the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. He was slated to begin his studies next year in Valencia, Spain, where the school operates a study-abroad program.

Saunders and Clark complimented students’ action in alerting officials of the incident. Threats against students are taken seriously in this era of school shootings.

“The mantra is if you hear something or see something then say something,” Clark said. “And they did. They immediately went to a school administrator. It was great and that’s how we knew so fast.”