UPDATE: East Ridge Police worried about potentially violent man
By Matt Barbour, Weekend Anchor/Reporter - bio | email
EAST RIDGE, TN (WRCB) -- Leaders at Spring Creek Elementary have been warned a potentially dangerous man may soon be on the loose.
East Ridge Police hope to calm some fears, saying they want to be proactive in warning the community about the man.
They insist he is not an immediate threat but say he has made violent threats in the past.
Legal sources tell Channel 3 18-year-old Russell Gearing is currently being held at a local health institute.
After making threats involving children, police wanted the school system to be aware as they head into a new semester.
"Mr. Gearing had made threats toward children as well as the community at large," says Erik Hopkins with the East Ridge Police Department.
Russell Gearing moved to East Ridge last year and East Ridge Police say they have had their run-ins with the teen ever since.
"My understanding is that he does have a juvenile criminal record. What that entails, I'm not one hundred percent certain," says Hopkins.
Police say over time, Gearing's threats escalated.
Police reports show in December he "was having thoughts of burning a neighbor's house down."
Then in January, his mother called police saying her son "had a psychotic episode," writing in his journal "his desire to blow up" nearby Spring Creek Elementary and referenced that he was "the greatest serial killer in the world."
He also made reference to the Sandy Hook tragedy.
"It was important to let at least the neighbors and surrounding businesses know that he was present in their neighborhood," says Hopkins.
Last week East Ridge Police went door to door in Gearing's neighborhood.
"He said if he came out and threatened anything just to call 911 and they'd come out and make him go back home," says Carl Hughes, who lives in Gearing's neighborhood.
We tried talking to Gearing's mother but she did not want to comment.
In the meantime, the principal and staff at Spring Creek are staying on top of the situation, passing out Gearing's picture.
"We had the picture copied for all the faculty and staff and I talked with them during a meeting on that Monday," says Paula Bergner, Principal of Spring Creek.
She wants all parents to know, the students are safe.
"We can't let that overshadow what we're here for and that's what we've tried to do this week and we'll continue with that," says Bergner.
Bottom line, police hope Gearing gets the help he needs.
"Sometimes there are gray areas between what is criminal and what is psychological," says Hopkins.
Police say it does make a difference now with Gearing's age. He turned 18 in December. Now that he is an adult, he is viewed differently in the eyes of the law.
East Ridge Police say federal investigators are also aware of this situation.