There was "a breakdown in the system" that allowed a man who allegedly threatened to kill school children Wednesday to return in a violent rage Thursday after posting $75 bail, York City Police Chief Wes Kahley told a small gathering of parents Monday.
Police rushed to Phineas Davis K-8 about 4:10 p.m. Thursday for a report of shots fired. Inside, 31 staff members and 83 students had been ordered into "lockdown" mode.
There never was a gun. But the incident — in which Eric Schelmety is accused of threatening to kill every child in the school and causing about $5,000 in damage to school property — was scary nonetheless.
The system breakdown, Kahley said, was not in the district's security protocol or in the police response.
It was in the courtroom, he said.
Schelmety went to the school about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, angry because he believed his 12-year-old daughter was being bullied and that the school was not properly addressing the issue, according to police.
He threatened to "murder and shoot" people inside the school, documents allege, causing the school to go into lockdown.
Schelmety was arrested and charged with a third-degree felony charge of making terroristic threats and misdemeanor disorderly conduct, records state.
After arresting Schelmety on Wednesday, a police officer "asked for high bail," Kahley said.
But the decision to set Schelmety's bail at $1,500 was the decision of District Judge Walter Groom. In Pennsylvania, a person can post 5 percent of their bail to be released.
"The courts set the bail — in my opinion, set the bail way too low," Kahley said. "The system failed, in my view."
Schelmety was released from York County Prison at 2:48 p.m. Thursday after posting bail, authorities said. Less than 90 minutes later, he was back at the school, police said.
Kahley directed his comments to some parents, reporters and school staff who met in the school's auditorium Monday to hear directly from officials about what happened.
The judge who set Schelmety's bail at $1,500 for the first incident should have appeared Monday to answer parents' questions, said Jackie Valdez, a mother of three children who attend Davis.
"Some people are that crazy, and they mean what they say," Valdez said.
Kahley said that's why he's pushing for change.
The chief said he intends to ask local legislators to consider changing the law so that suspects accused of threatening children in a school are less likely to be released so quickly.
"We have a serious opportunity here," Kahley said. "And I feel like it might get lost in looking for someone to blame."
When officers arrived at the school Thursday, they found Schelmety in the lobby, smashing windows in an attempt to get into the school office, according to charging documents.
Schelmety, 30, of 1127 E. King St., was arrested at the school and charged with making terroristic threats, ethnic intimidation, institutional vandalism, reckless endangerment, defiant trespass and criminal mischief. He was committed to York County Prison, unable to post his $500,000 bail.
Waleska Vega, who was inside the school with her daughter when the lockdown was announced, said she thinks the district should have alerted parents about the Wednesday incident immediately.
"Y'all should have took it more serious," she said.
The district did send letters home with children Thursday about the Wednesday incident, Superintendent Eric Holmes said.
But many parents, including Vega, hadn't read the letters before Schelmety returned to the school Thursday. Holmes said the district will take a second look at the notification process.
"This was a little extraordinary," he said. "Usually, when you have someone arrested, that's enough."
As for the Thursday incident, Holmes said the district's security procedures worked. Students were protected by "people who love them," he said.
"I have never been as proud of my staff as I was on Thursday," Holmes said.
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.