Phoenix police: Teen threatened to 'blow up Muslim church,' found with potassium nitrate

PHOENIX (FOX 10/AP) -- Phoenix police officials say a teenager is in custody after he was found with potassium nitrate on the campus of Pinnacle High School.

According to a statement released by Sgt. Tommy Thompson late Tuesday afternoon, an investigation began on Monday, after a juvenile witness told his parents that a classmate of his said he wanted to "blow up a Muslim Church". Police officers responded to the scene and talked with the witness. At the time, the witness said he did not see any weapons or devices that would allow the suspect to act upon the statement.

On Tuesday, Phoenix Police said the two young men were at Pinnacle High School when the witness saw the suspect in possession of a plastic bag containing several pounds of a white powdery substance. The witness immediately went to the school office to report what he had seen. The suspect, identified as a 15-year-old, was brought by a school staff member to the school administration building, along with the powder, and police officers were called to the scene to investigate.

Police officials said EOD officers tested the powdery substance and determined it was potassium nitrate. The salt-like substance is not dangerous by itself but can be mixed with other chemicals to create a flash powder. The substance can be ordered through the mail.

The suspect, according to police, was taken to Phoenix Police headquarters. The suspect made no threats against the school, and there is no indication that the school, or anyone connected with the school, was in danger. The school was not placed on lockdown, as circumstances did not necessitate a lockdown.

Sgt. Tommy Thompson said Wednesday the 15-year-old was in custody and that "charges are still being considered."

Police did not release his name.

Meanwhile, officials with the Paradise Valley Unified School School District have released a statement on the incident.

"At PVSchools, our first priority is for the safety and well-being of our students and staff. We take all incidents and any reported allegations seriously and work in cooperation with law enforcement on all police matters. 

Today, school administration received information about an alleged threat of intent to do harm. There were no threats made directly to the school and at no time were students in danger. Due to the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA), PVSchools cannot provide any details about the student in question, including the disciplinary action(s) that will be taken. 

It’s important to know that we took every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of students and staff. In addressing this matter, we are confident that it is safe for students to attend school. 

It’s always advisable that parents check their teen’s phones and/or tablets to see what they are texting, posting on social media, and passing on to others. Teens should be reminded that making alleged threats, even when they intend it as a joke, can have severe consequences and is considered a felony. Parents should never hesitate to call or email the school, as well as the police if they hear or see any concerning information.

In closing, PVSchools and Pinnacle High School are cooperating fully with the Phoenix Police Department on the investigation."