What to Know
- A 19-year-old NJ student has been arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot up his high school on graduation night
- Prosecutors say Matthew Vanderbeek allegedly made the threats via social media; they say he also tried to get ahold of a gun
- The specific nature of the threats weren't immediately clear; prosecutors say there is no longer any threat to the school system
A 19-year-old student at a New Jersey high school has been arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot classmates and staff at Thursday's graduation ceremony, prosecutors said. Investigators found the young man was trying to get a gun.
Matthew Vanderbeek, of Cream Ridge, faces charges of making terroristic threats with a threat to kill and trying to get a firearm for an unlawful purpose.
Prosecutors say they began investigating Tuesday, along with a Plumsted Township detective, after they heard of a threat made by a New Egypt High School student. They tracked the threat to Vanderbeek, and say he allegedly used social media to communicate his intent to shoot up the school on graduation night.
Multiple agencies investigated a search warrant at Vanderbeek's home, and prosecutors say that warrant and follow-up investigation verified not only that he made the comments but that he was also trying to get a weapon, officials say.
A law enforcement source said Vanderbeek had recently gone to a gun shop in an effort to buy a weapon but he was turned down because he had no permit.
Vanderbeek was taken into custody and is being held in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing. Prosecutors want to make it clear that there is no current threat to the Plumsted Township School system or the graduation ceremony. New Egypt High School serves about 530 students in grades 9-12.
It wasn't immediately clear if Vanderbeek had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
A letter from the superintendent, Gerald North, addressing the arrest was posted on the district's website, though. It described the basics of the case and assured parents there would be increased police presence at graduation.
"We, as always, have the safety and security of our students first and foremost in our decision making," North wrote. "Please understand this situation was dealt with promptly and professionally to insure the safety at, as well as the memories from the graduation of the Class of 2018."
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In an additional statement to NBC 4, North said: “I am very proud that the system worked as it intended. To the students, to the administration, to the Plumsted Police Department, to the Ocean County Prosecutors Office. Everyone’s prompt and professional handling of the situation averted a possible tragedy.”