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South Portland High School student planning 'very likely tragedy' before FBI search, police say

South Portland police said its school resource officer first notified them of the student, who was also being looked at by the FBI and District Attorney's office.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Residents of Elm Street in South Portland were blocked from their homes for more than two hours on Wednesday after law enforcement searched the home of two people—one being a teenager believed to be planning some sort of action involving guns.

South Portland Police Chief Dan Ahern said the teenager is a student at South Portland High School. He said the department's school resource officer was first alerted to the teenager, who is not being named by law enforcement.

"We were made aware of it just two days ago and felt it was in such a serious nature we needed to take action and search that person's home," Chief Ahern said. "Based on the info and evidence we recovered, there quite possibly will be additional charges."

Ahern said a number of rifles were taken from the home. He described them as high-powered. Chief Ahern would not say what kind, or the number of guns, citing the fact the suspect in focus is a juvenile.

"We reduced any type of threat from this individual... We recovered a lot of evidence from his home that will stop any actions that he had planned... We want to ensure the public they are safe," Chief Ahern said.

He said the arrest most likely stopped a possible attack in the community.

At South Portland High School, students said they knew about the teenager and said he had not shown up to school in some time.

The teenager's father was also arrested as police said he was attempting to stop law enforcement from arresting the teenager.

An Elm Street resident, Jim Green, said he's lived there for 65 years. 

"There were all these guys in riot gear and everyone came bailing out and I'm like, 'What is going on?'" Jim Green said. 

Green said the father and son have always been friendly and they've lived in that home for around five years.

"Definitely without a doubt, it was the strangest thing I've seen happen here," Green said. "There are a lot of good people here, but all it takes is one bad apple."

The FBI and the Cumberland County District Attorney declined to comment on the matter citing the suspect is a juvenile.

In a letter addressed to South Portland families and staff Thursday, South Portland Superintendent Tim Matheney said the school district acknowledges the incident has been unsettling.

"Dear South Portland families and staff,

In the course of the day today, the school district learned that the Police search of a South Portland High School student’s home turned up a considerable amount of concerning material, including firearms. The search followed the student’s arrest Wednesday evening. The student was not present in school today.

South Portland Police Chief Dan Ahern has stated that the Police have “reduced any type of threat from this individual,” continuing, “We recovered a lot of evidence from his home that will stop any actions that he had planned.” Chief Ahern further noted, “We want to ensure the public they are safe.”

The School Department is grateful for the prompt action of the Police once the student was identified as being an individual of concern. The student has already been charged with theft, arson, and criminal mischief. According to reports, additional charges are possible.

As the School Department learns more about the student’s activities, we will identify appropriate next steps regarding the student to ensure the safety of the school community. The safety of our students and staff is our top priority, and we will pursue every measure possible toward that goal.

We realize that this is unsettling news for our families and students. Even during the April break, we would like to offer assistance to students who may need extra support during this time. Please call the district office at 871-0555 if we can help in any way.

Finally, I would like to thank the South Portland Police for their swift action in support of the safety of our community. We appreciate their partnership in providing a safe learning environment for our students and staff.


Tim Matheney, Superintendent of Schools"

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