A King, N.C. man recently charged after speaking of a desire to commit a school shooting was followed by North Carolina police into Virginia on Thursday, at one point stopping at Hillsville Elementary School.
The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release Friday regarding the incident. In the release, Pulaski County Sheriff Mike Worrell noted that his office received information from a N.C. law enforcement agency about a male subject from their jurisdiction who had been followed into Pulaski County before they lost a visual of the subject just after he got off Interstate 81 at Exit 98 in Dublin.
“The male subject, Matthew Recoy Saavedra, (age 20), a UNC Charlotte Student and resident of King, N.C., is currently out on a $25,000 bond for Making a False Report of Mass Violence on an Educational Property on March 14,” Worrell said in the press release. “Saavedra was confronted at a Winston-Salem (N.C.) school by the Student Resource Officer (SRO) on March 22, 2018 where his vehicle was searched and maps of N.C. schools were found but no firearms. The SRO contacted his agency after Saavedra was told to leave and advised what he had encountered at the school.”
According to Sheriff Worrell, two plain clothes detectives found Saavedra’s Red Toyota Yaris and began following it into Carroll County, where Saavedra pulled into Hillsville Elementary School, turned around and travelled into Pulaski County by getting off Exit 98 from I-81 where they lost Saavedra.
“Saavedra has ties to Giles County per his Virginia Driver’s License. Our agency began a search for the vehicle to include a heavy patrol of all the county schools, a teletype was sent to surrounding jurisdictions and a local check for attempted firearm purchases was done as well,” Worrell said. “This office was advised at approximately 10:30 p.m. that Saavedra and his vehicle were both back at his residence in King, N.C. As a precaution, continual patrols were conducted in and around our county schools throughout the night to include a heavy presence during the start of the school day on Friday. Our department will continue to communicate with all agencies involved, monitor information as it becomes available and take the necessary actions in a proactive effort to maintain the safety and security of every school in Pulaski County.”
Carroll County Sheriff J.B. Gardner added that his department was notified Thursday by the Forsyth County (N.C.) Sheriff’s Office that two of its officers were following Saavedra through Carroll County and into Pulaski County.
“I notified all of the Sheriffs in the surrounding region about the information that we had received, so they could alert their School Resource Officers and school systems, just as a precaution. We notified the Carroll County School system of what we had. We also took extra precautions and assigned more deputies to watch our schools,” Gardner said. “We have no information that this young man was a threat to any school in Virginia, but due to the threat in North Carolina we were taking due notice that he was in our area. We took the extra steps to ensure the safety of our students. In today’s world, we always take this type of threat seriously.”
According to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal, the felony charge of making a false report of mass violence on an educational property prevents Saavedra from legally buying any guns. The article quotes Chief Jeffrey Baker of the UNCC Police Department as saying authorities executed a search warrant at his apartment in Charlotte and didn’t find any guns, ammunition or explosive devices.
“Saavedra came to the attention of authorities after he sought treatment for mental health issues,” the article in the Winston-Salem Journal states. “He’s accused of telling Dr. William Graham that ‘when he turns 21, he’s going to buy a gun and shoot up his school,’ the arrest warrant said. Graham works at the Novant Health Mountainview Medical Clinic in King.”
The Winston-Salem article also states that Saavedra is accused of telling King Police Cpl. R.G. Russell on March 6 that he was fascinated by mass shootings, he has studied the 1999 Columbine school shooting and that he watches Reddit videos in which people die, according to the arrest warrant.