Online photo of teen holding rifle sparks scare at Red Deer high school

File: RCMP cruiser. Global News

RCMP in Red Deer have charged a 16-year-old boy after a threatening photo posted online sparked concern for staff and students at a local high school.

Investigators allege the teen took a photo of a friend holding an airsoft rifle and posted it to social media on Sunday with a warning that students at Hunting Hills High School shouldn’t go to school the next day. It’s estimated about 300 students saw the picture.

According to RCMP, the person holding the gun in the picture wasn’t aware that it had been shared online.

Working with the Red Deer Public School District, RCMP were able to determine there was no real threat. Mounties visited the school on Monday to reassure staff and students that it was a hoax.

“Perhaps the suspect thought he was playing a joke, but RCMP take public safety threats very seriously,” Cpl. Karyn Kay said in a news release.

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“Actions such as this can spread incredibly fast through social media and cause panic and trauma to hundreds of people.”

“We’re glad we were able to determine very quickly there was no actual threat, but there are consequences under the Criminal Code for disseminating threats, whether they are real or not,” Kay added.

RCMP said the boy – who can’t be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act – will face a charge of spreading false information with intent to alarm.