Complaint: school shooting threat suspect felt isolated; heard voices

Published: Feb. 17, 2018 at 8:40 PM CST
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An Appleton man accused of threatening a school shooting told investigators that he felt like people were conspiring against him and that he received subliminal messages from television.

David Etheridge appeared in court Monday on a charge of Make Terrorist Threats. Court set bond at $10,000.

Etheridge was arrested Feb. 17 at his home in Appleton. The 23-year-old admitted that he had sent an electronic message to the FBI saying he would "shoot up the school." The FBI contacted Appleton Police on Saturday.

Appleton Police executed a search warrant at Etheridge's home and seized four long guns and "numerous electronic devices."

Investigators discovered Etheridge had sent about 600 electronic messages to the FBI in the past two months.

Agents tell Action 2 News the "shoot up the school" message was the only one that threatened a crime.

"Many of them were just repeated vulgarities," says Sgt. Dave Lund, Appleton Police Dept. " Some of them were, the best I can describe, ramblings. Many that just indicated annoyance."

A criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News details what Etheridge told Appleton Police investigators following his arrest.

Etheridge said he felt people were trying to hurt him, and described an isolated high school experience. He said classmates humiliated him and picked on him.

"When asked if those feelings were the reason he made the comment about the school shooting, he said yes, but he has been feeling like he doesn't belong for a very long time," reads the complaint.

Etheridge said he considered going to news stations and the Green Bay Packers organization. He feared people were conspiring behind his back.

He talked about receiving subliminal messages from television. He believes the government is selling his personal information.

Appleton Police spoke with a relative who confirmed Etheridge had been talking to himself and said he had been hearing voices through television. The relative said Etheridge had been suffering from depression.

"She said David has previously made verbal statements about how he should just kill himself or get a gun and shoot people up," reads the complaint. "However he said when he saw incidents on TV like the recent Florida shooting he would say, 'what's wrong with these people.'"

Police say they seized four rifles from Etheridge's residence, but the guns they found are not unusual for a home in Northeast Wisconsin.

"The rifles and ammunition were typical of the hunting rifles and amount of ammunition found in many residences in our state," reads a statement from Appleton Police.

The relative told officials they she didn't know if Etheridge had combination for the safe because it was hidden.

The message comes as a community continues to heal from a school shooting that left 17 people dead at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

"Obviously, in light of incidents this past week, this was a threat to be taken very seriously," said Sgt. Lund.

The Appleton Area School District commended authorities for their prompt response.

"The Appleton Area School District will continue to work closely with the Appleton Police Department to keep all students and staff safe," reads a statement posted on social media.

Action 2 News will continue to update this developing story.

We appreciate the prompt response of the Appleton Police Department and other agencies. The Appleton Area School...

Posted by Appleton Area School District on Saturday, February 17, 2018