A Crestline man appeared in the Crawford County Municipal Court for a hearing Friday afternoon after being charged in connection with a social media threat against the Galion School District.
Dennis Heefner, 18, of Crestline was charged with inducing panic, a fifth-degree felony, with bond set at $150,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 11 but Crawford County Prosecutor Matt Crall said the case could be presented before the Crawford County Grand Jury before that date.
During the hearing, Heefner reportedly said the threat was a joke.
As of Friday, Heefner is being held at the Crawford County Justice Center, but those who know him say he is not a danger to the school district.
Heefner was arrested in the Loveland community in the Cincinnati area Thursday morning after a Galion Police Department investigation determined he allegedly posted was “bout to shoot up Galion schools” on social media.
Police were alerted about the message at 7:32 a.m. Thursday morning.
Carleigh Moreton, a freshman at Galion High School and Heefner’s girlfriend, said it’s a misunderstanding from a Facebook post, which she repeated Friday afternoon during an in-person interview with the Inquirer.
“I post a picture of Dennis [and] my friend commented saying ‘you look like a crazy white kid’ and Dennis’s response was, ‘boutta shoot up galion schools,.’ He gets sent to jail,” she said. “I know Dennis was wrong for saying that but if you read what context it was in, you’d understand. So everyone calling him crazy and saying he deserved to be locked up is wrong.”
Moreton said Heefner is homeschooled.
She added Heefner left Sunday to visit his father in Loveland, a suburb of Cincinnati.
A person close to Heefner and familiar with the situation said that Heefner has never been in trouble before the incident.
“He doesn’t even have a gun and left Sunday to go visit his dad,” the source said. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly. Just one sentence has ruined his life.”
The Crestline Police Department, Bucyrus Police Department and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the investigation.
“This is a great example of law enforcement working with each other and with the schools for the protection of our students,” Galion Police Chief Brian Saterfield said. “Immediate action and cooperation led to the quick apprehension of the suspect. Threats made through social media are taken just as seriously as those that are made in person.”
“We did not institute the full, district-wide lockdown protocol because the suspect was not in the immediate Galion area,” Galion Superintendent Jim Grubbs said. “However, the Galion Police Department did have officers on campus in multiple capacities and our building staff members were on high alert until the suspect was apprehended.”
Heefner is currently in Crawford County jail pending formal court proceedings.
“The investigation is ongoing, to include trying to determine the context and nature of the alleged threat,” Saterfield said.
Kim Gasuras contributed to this report.