Threats on Facebook about shooting police lead to arrest
Published Sunday, January 15, 2012 6:39PM EST
ST. ALBERT, Alta. - Mounties in Alberta have arrested and charged a man following a tip from Facebook that he allegedly threatened to shoot police officers.
RCMP Const. Janice Schoepp says a security officer with Facebook in the U.S. spotted alarming posts on the social networking site on Friday.
Schoepp said Facebook contacted the FBI, which contacted an FBI liaison officer in Vancouver. That officer then alerted the RCMP.
The posts were tracked to an address in St. Albert, a community just northwest of Edmonton, and Schoepp said officers there had to come up with a plan quickly.
Schoepp said investigators learned that the suspect wasn't at home, but that he lived with a woman and two children. Police contacted the woman, who left the home, and the children were picked up from school.
Then an RCMP emergency response team with dogs, negotiators and other officers waited for the man to come home and they moved in to arrest him on Friday evening.
"They knew that the person was at home. The other people who lived at the residence had been removed and were taken to a safe location," Schoepp said.
"There was some negotiating that took place for about an hour and then the person was taken into custody and charged with one count of uttering threats."
Schoepp said investigators seized evidence in the home related to the investigation, but she said no firearms were found.
James Houtstra, 32, of St. Albert has been remanded in custody and is scheduled to appear in St. Albert provincial court on Jan. 30.
Schoepp didn't release specifics about the alleged threats -- only that several posts were made and that they contained threats to harm police officers.
Schoepp noted that very little time passed from when the alleged threats were spotted on Facebook in the U.S. to when the information reached RCMP in Alberta.
"I believe we received it the very same day the posting went up. So it's encouraging to know the chain of information went through very quickly," Schoepp said.
St. Albert is about 100 kilometres from where a gunman killed four Mounties in Mayerthorpe, Alta. in 2005 and Schoepp said the RCMP don't take threats lightly.
"I think we take every threat where someone threatens to harm someone else seriously. Before Mayerthorpe and after, we're always very careful about matters like this," Schoepp said.
"We don't want, obviously, police officers to be harmed, but also the person who is making the threats or other people who might be in close proximity as well."