Smithfield High School student charged with making social media threats; semi-automatic rifle confiscated at home

SMITHFIELD, Va. - Authorities arrested a Smithfield High School student Tuesday after a social media threat directed toward students placed the school on lockdown.

The threat was made around lunch time, authorities say.

As a result of the investigation into the threat, investigators with the Isle of Wight Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant at a home in the 1500 block of Carrollton Boulevard, where an AR-15 rifle was confiscated.

They also seized two loaded magazines, .233 ammunition, multiple cell phones, USB drives, flash drives, an iPad and a Kindle.

Paul M. Emerson

Investigators then took 18-year-old Paul M. Emerson into custody. Emerson was charged with two counts of communicating a threat via electronic means.

Court documents show the threat was made via Snapchat. Emerson stated, "Nah I don't need help for it idc I got my AR so I'm more than able to kill....its people at my school and people over at Windsor."

In an interview with deputies, Emerson said he is "highly depressed" and is getting bullied by students at both Smithfield and Windsor High School because of his previous arrest.

Documents show in February 2018, Emerson was arrested for threats to commit serious bodily harm to persons on school property. He was a juvenile at the time.

Emerson was taken before a magistrate and is being held without bond at Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

51-year-old Melissa M. Jacuzzi, who is Paul's mother, was also charged in conjunction with the investigation. She was charged with obstruction of justice and was released on a summons to appear in court on a later date.

Lynn Briggs, Spokesperson for Isle of Wight County Schools issued the following statement after the threat was made:

Isle of Wight County Schools encourages students, parents and community members to tell an official when comments, behaviors or actions from individuals appear to be distressing or alarming and indicate a desire to do harm to others.  We must all do our part to be vigilant when it comes to ensuring the safety of our schools.

Two other local schools also received threats Tuesday. Graffiti containing threatening language was found on the bathroom walls of Ocean Lakes High School and a Landstown High School student is in custody after supposedly making a threat that was overheard by another student on the bus Tuesday morning. The latter prompted police to partially evacuate the school to complete a search.

Isle of Wight County Schools issued another statement late Tuesday night after Emerson's arrest:

Isle of Wight County Schools will handle this incident as a student disciplinary matter. While the school division is unable to comment about specific disciplinary action for this student, Isle of Wight County Schools will treat any and all threats against the safety of students and staff with the highest priority.

IWCS encourages students, parents and community members to tell an official when comments, behaviors or actions from individuals appear to be distressing or alarming and indicate a desire to do harm to others. We must all do our part to be vigilant when it comes to ensuring the safety of our schools.

“I want to thank the Smithfield High School principal, his administrative team and the School Resource Officer who ensured the safety of our students and staff during the lockdown. I also want to commend the parent who shared information on the possible threat with us, and the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office who immediately investigated the matter and followed up with an arrest,” said Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton. “This type of cooperation between our schools, local law enforcement and the community is what is needed to keep our schools strong against threats.”

The sheriff's office says they take all threats made toward students and faculty very seriously and will fully investigate these matters.

Stay with News 3 for updates.