Editor’s note: This is a developing story that was last updated at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday with the latest information from law enforcement, judicial and school officials.
A 26-year-old Roaring Fork Valley resident was arrested in Old Snowmass Wednesday morning after allegedly making threats on social media against teachers and school district staff in Summit County.
The suspect, Charles Draughn, lives in Glenwood Springs and works in Carbondale, according to press releases from Pitkin and Summit county officials.
Safety measures were lifted for Aspen and Roaring Fork school districts shortly after Draughn was taken into custody around 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to a Pitkin County press release. Other schools in the region, including Garfield Re-2 School District and Summit School District also lifted their safety measures.
During Draughn’s arrest at a local residence, Watson Divide Road and Snowmass Creek Road were closed “to ensure the public’s safety, and to allow law enforcement to operate safely.” The roads were back open around 10:15 a.m.
“The individual was believed to be in Pitkin County Wednesday morning and information obtained from law enforcement sources suggested the individual was armed,” the press release states. “As a safety precaution, all schools in Pitkin County went on ‘secure’ status at approximately 8:50 a.m.”
The lockouts had been lifted in both school districts as of about 10:20 a.m.
“The Secure Action in all Roaring Fork Schools has been lifted because there is no longer an external threat to schools. All schools have returned to normal operations,” Roaring Fork Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez said in an emailed statement to district families.
The suspect was initially taken into custody in Pitkin County and then transferred to authorities in Summit County, where a warrant was out for his arrest.
According to District Attorney John Bryan with the 5th Judicial District, which includes Summit County, the arrest warrant was issued after Draughn posted several comments Tuesday on the Summit Daily News’ Instagram account.
In the comments, which have since been taken down, the suspect threatened Summit School District teachers and staff—including Superintendent Tony Byrd.
“Someone noticed it late Tuesday night, reported it to law enforcement and they decided obviously it was a credible enough threat to take action and make sure that nothing bad happened,” Bryan said.
Draughn will be held at the Summit County Jail in Breckenridge on a $100,000 cash or surety bond.
According to a press release from the 5th Judicial District, Draughn was arrested on several charges including felony menacing.
His first appearance in court is anticipated for Thursday.
Local law enforcement agencies said they were first alerted to the threat around 8 a.m. by authorities in Summit County, and notified local school officials shortly after.
Both the Aspen and Roaring Fork school districts sent out updates to families Wednesday morning to alert them that they had secured their schools out of “an abundance of caution.”
Kelsy Been, chief of staff for Roaring Fork Schools, said if they had known earlier that the suspect was in the valley, they might not have included that phrase.
“You know, early in the day when we were learning that this threat had originated in Summit County, it did feel like our schools were going on ‘secure’ out of an abundance of caution,” she said. “But if you have somebody who’s threatening violence towards schools and they end up coming through your community, that feels real and that feels really scary.”
During the ‘secure lockout’ at both school districts, classes continued—but recess was canceled and no one was allowed to enter or leave school buildings until the threat had been lifted.
Aspen School District superintendent Dave Baugh said they wanted to keep things as close to normal as possible based on the limited information they had from law enforcement.
“There are a lot of schools in the Roaring Fork Valley and we did not know if the threat was against our schools,” he said. “We were just told that the threat was heading upvalley and that we should secure the perimeter, so we did that.”
Baugh said he didn’t want to put 1,600 kids into a high anxiety state while waiting for an “undetermined and unknown outcome.”
In an emailed statement alerting families in the Roaring Fork School District that the threat had been lifted, Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez said that initially law enforcement unintentionally asked some schools to go into a full lockdown before amending the order to “the proper precaution for the situation.”
Rodríguez acknowledged that going into a full lockdown can add to an already traumatic experience.
“We know that situations like this are frightening for staff, students, and parents alike. The safety of students and staff is our first priority, which is why we implement our protocols whenever there is any possible threat to safety,” he said in the statement. “We will be working with law enforcement to ensure that the correct precaution is always called. We appreciate our partnership with law enforcement and the prompt response from all of our schools.”
School officials from both districts said they are grateful to local and regional law enforcement for helping keep their students and staff safe.
“Having been an educator in other parts of the country as well as here, we’re always aware that this could happen anytime, anywhere,” said Baugh. “With the caliber of firearms available there’s very little we can do except train for a worst case scenario, train to secure borders. We train our staff in basically battlefield first aid. When I started my career, I would’ve never thought I’d ever hear a school leader say that.”
In addition to school shooter drills and other measures, Baugh said intensive first aid training is an important part of being an educator now, but he hopes they’ll never have to use it.