A Cherokee County community is counting its blessings.
Parents, officials and students have only to imagine what could have happened if an incendiary device found in a fellow student’s possession had been used at Etowah High School.
That’s because someone knew something and called Woodstock police.
Alfred Dupree and Victoria McCurley, both 17, now face attempted murder charges after allegedly threatening staff members and the school itself, the sheriff’s office said.
The teenagers are being charged as adults.
It all started Monday, when police met with Dupree and his parents about the alleged threats.
Police and the sheriff’s office acted quickly, taking the threats seriously and informing parents Tuesday.
“I am so thankful for the person who reported them,” Woodstock parent Paige Post told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I can't begin to imagine what kind of destruction could have been done.”
Authorities discovered the duo threatened specific people, whose identities have not been released, at the high school, Cherokee County sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Marianne Kelley said Wednesday.
They also had a homemade incendiary device.
When Andy Waldron, a parent of a senior at Etowah, heard about the threats Tuesday, he said he’d hoped it was just a kid mouthing off on social media.
He didn’t even think of keeping his son home from school.
Waldron told the AJC his son has attended Cherokee County schools since kindergarten and he has complete confidence in the sheriff’s office.
“They would not have put the kids in danger,” Waldron said. “I have enough faith in that and in the school district.”
Cherokee County schools spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby confirmed that the students were accused of plans to harm students and staff at their school.
“We will not tolerate violence — or threats of violence — at any of our schools,” Jacoby said in a statement sent to parents. “This stand will be reflected in the severe administrative disciplinary actions we will take against these students.”
Waldron said the rumor mills were “ridiculous” and students were talking about a “hit list” and worried about the homecoming parade. “It’s terrifying,” Waldron said.
He recalled the only other major incident he could remember at a local school: A student was stabbed following a fight at Woodstock High School last year.
But when he learned more about what Dupree and McCurley were accused of, he was glad the authorities took such swift action.
“The real hero in the whole thing is whoever reported it,” Waldron said. “God bless them because they likely saved lives.”
Sheriff Frank Reynolds said a motive has not been determined, but the mental health of the teens may have been a factor.
“We have a lot of mental health issues and I think that may have been the cause here,” Reynolds said.
Dupree, of Acworth, and McCurley, of Woodstock, each face three counts of criminal attempt to commit murder and four counts of making terroristic threats and acts, Kelley said.
Those charges stem from statements made by Dupree not on social media but in his diary, Kelley said, which was discovered when investigators met with Dupree and his family Monday night. That’s also when authorities learned of McCurley’s alleged involvement.
The two teenagers were described as friends and not romantically involved. Neither had been in trouble before with the law, Kelley said.
The threats could have been “moved forward with,” which resulted in multiple counts of the charges, Kelley said.
“Most of the information we received was from the personal diary, what was written down,” Kelley said. “It’s still an open investigation.”
Dupree and McCurley were taken for a medical assessment before being arrested and charged.
Officials secured a search warrant for both students’ homes and found the flammable incendiary device at McCurley’s house, Kelley said.
Along with Dupree’s personal journal, police found firearms and a powdered substance.
“Both substances were turned over to the GBI to have them tested and determine the chemical material,” Kelley said.
The firearms, which Dupree’s family turned over to authorities, are not being considered evidence, Kelley said.
Authorities said the accused students also face charges of criminal attempt to commit arson and possession or transportation of a destructive device or explosive intending to kill, injure or destroy any public building.
The arrest warrants were sealed by Chief Magistrate Judge James Drane III, Kelley said.
Dupree and McCurley have a first court appearance scheduled for noon Thursday.
Etowah student Sam Jackson told Channel 2 Action News he was surprised to learn who was involved.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Because I knew both of those kids. They both rode my bus. They released the names today, everyone found out today, and everyone was just shocked.”