The Wake County school system and some anxious parents are actively working to keep a man accusing of threatening to shoot students at a Wake Forest elementary school from returning to his home next to the campus.
Arthur Vladimir Kochetkov, 33, of Wake Forest, was arrested Monday on a misdemeanor charge of communicating threats on Facebook against students at Jones Dairy Elementary School. Thursday, he also was charged with the felony of making a false report concerning mass violence on educational property, according to the Town of Wake Forest.
Wake Forest police confirmed Thursday they had searched Kochetkov’s residence and didn’t find any firearms.
Fears have escalated to where armed security is now on campus, students aren’t allowed on the playgrounds and some parents are talking about pulling their children from the school and selling their homes.
Wake County school leaders met with more than 100 parents on Wednesday night to talk about how they can urge law enforcement and court officials to keep Kochetkov from being released. School officials even told parents that options such as closing the school and relocating students and staff are on the table.
“This is a priority for us,” Andre Smith, the district’s northeastern area superintendent, told parents in an hour-long meeting at Main Street Park in Rolesville. “This is a terrible thing that has taken place and you’ve been victimized.
“How you can help us as parents and as stakeholders is to communicate to law enforcement officials, communicate with the magistrate’s office, communicate with the judicial process. This is a situation that we have reached as far as we can go as a school system.”
Smith said that school officials and the school system’s attorneys have been talking with the Wake County District Attorney’s Office about keeping Kochetkov in custody. He’s currently at the Wake County jail, and there are several additional release conditions to be considered during a court appearance scheduled Friday, the Town of Wake Forest said in a news release.
Their initial steps seem to be successful. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman personally argued in court Wednesday for a motion that was granted to raise Kochetkov’s secured bond from $10,000 to $100,000. A second $100,000 bond, bringing the total to $200,000, was placed on Kochetkov for the felony charge.
“These are cases we take seriously,” Freeman said Thursday. “In these matters we attempt to secure bonds that will assist in protecting the public while we conduct threat assessments and allow opportunity for a defendant to be mentally evaluated.”
Freeman said they’re actively working this case to take every precaution the law allows in preventing an incident.
Vadim Kochetkov, Arthur’s brother, said that he can understand why parents are worried but insisted that his mentally ill brother is not a violent person. Vadim Kochetkov said the family wants to ensure that Arthur gets the best legal defense while also trying to reach a compromise with the school community that allays its fears.
“It’s a threat he had no intention to act on,” Vadim Kochetkov said in an interview Thursday. “He doesn’t have the means to act on it. I don’t think he has the mental capacity to act on it.”
According to the misdemeanor arrest warrant, Kochetkov posted on Facebook that he had “amassed an army big enough to slaughter all your Wake Forest kids in their local playground.” The warrant also says that Kochetkov, whose bedroom looks out on the school’s playground, showed pictures of guns in the post and wrote words such as in a month “it’s curtains for all of you.”
The arrest warrant on the felony charge says Kochetkov wrote on Facebook he’ll “leave any local school side-district precinct with enough holes to puncture a (expletive) waterbed mattress.” The warrant says he also wrote “I’m probably going to shoot up the local neighborhood kids.”
Vadim Kochetkov said his brother does not have access to firearms.
Families have been in an uproar since June after Kochetkov, who lives in his mother’s home, was charged with trespassing on campus. The fears escalated with the new arrest, which comes amid a climate of reports of mass shootings happening across the nation.
Vadim Kochetkov said his brother, a U.S. Army veteran who has said he has post-traumatic stress disorder, had recently stopped taking his medication. Vadim Kochetkov speculated that the Facebook post was his brother reacting to how he feels like he’s been unfairly characterized by the school community as being dangerous.
“I think he wrote what he wrote in anger,” Vadim Kochetkov said. “But it’s anger that has been filtered through the symptoms of his illness and the characterization of himself that’s been perceived and the negative stereotype.”
Despite the post, Vadim Kochetkov said he’s never heard his brother talk about hurting the students.
In a show of support, Superintendent Cathy Moore and other school district leaders visited Jones Dairy on Wednesday. Extra security, in the form of an armed off-duty Wake County sheriff’s deputy, an unarmed private security guard and school district security staff, are also on campus.
“Under present conditions, we are confident our school building is a safe place for all staff and students,” principal Rob Bendel said in a letter sent to families Wednesday.
But Bendel added in the letter that the school will continue to suspend the use of the playgrounds.
Russ Smith, Wake senior director of security, said the district will talk with the YMCA about having the armed off-duty officer on campus for before-school and after-school programs.
Freeman said they are not at a point of knowing how long Kochetkov will be in custody.
School and parent leaders assured families at Wednesday’s meeting that they’d get advance notice before Kochetkov is released. If he’s released, Kochetkov would be required to be monitored, undergo a mental health evaluation and be prohibited from being on school property.
But since his mother’s home backs up to the school, efforts are underway to delay Kochetkov’s release. Kimberly LaPorte, a Jones Dairy parent and a licensed clinical social worker, said that if they can get Kochetkov treated out of state they can “breathe for a while.”
Parents applauded when LaPorte brought up the possibility of getting a court order that would keep Kochetkov from living at his mother’s home. LaPorte said such an order could “put a hardship on the family to relocate him out of that situation.”
Lisa Luten, a school district spokeswoman, told parents that Kochetkov’s family has been asked to move in the past but has declined. A parent suggested families come up with the money to buy the home.
Vadim Kochetkov said the family has been looking at moving Arthur to an apartment in Wake Forest away from Jones Dairy. Vadim Kochetkov said he thinks that once his brother is out of his mother’s home that the situation will disappear.
If Kochetkov is released, several parents talked Wednesday about not sending their children to the school — at least on a temporary basis.
“I along with a lot of the families feel that if he is released there is a danger,” LaPorte told the crowd. “At least at the end of the day the buck stops with me in keeping my kids safe.
“There are a lot of families that are already in the conversation of how do we get the curriculum and home school our kids for a while so there are some channels going around about that.”
Several parents asked about getting their children transferred to other Wake schools and even closing down the 760-student school if Kochetkov is released. Luten told parents that school officials would begin discussing both issues Thursday as they work on a long-term plan for Jones Dairy.
“The last 48 hours has been just addressing the situation right now,” Luten said. “But starting tomorrow morning, we’re looking at all those options, exploring every option.”
Amid nervous laughter and applause, a parent asked whether a sniper could be put on the school’s roof. That led to a reminder from school and parent leaders that only law enforcement personnel are allowed to have firearms on campus.
“If we incite that and we’re posting and telling people to come to campus, bring your guns, I don’t want to have any part of that,” Leslie Fielding-Russell, PTA president of Jones Dairy, said at the meeting.