Updated 6 months ago by Josh Breslow
An employee with the McCreary County School District is in jail accused of threatening to blow up a school and harm the superintendent.
50-year-old James Paulson, a district computer tech was arrested late Tuesday night and charged with terroristic threatening.
According to an arrest citation, on Tuesday afternoon, a staff member at Pine Knot Primary School reported Paulson threatened to "cause bodily harm to McCreary County Superintendent Wright." The document claims Paulson "made statements to staff members that he was going to blow up the school" and that he "researched how to manufacture an explosive device using a pressure cooker method."
Witnesses also said, about a week earlier, Paulson was at a gas station, picked up a propane tank and said "see they sell this stuff to make a bomb."
Wednesday morning, a judge denied Paulson bond, calling him "a danger to the public." Paulson was also ordered to have no contact with the superintendent, the witness who reported the incident, and to stay clear of the school.
"Certainly it makes you consider things," said Superintendent Arthur D. Wright of McCreary County Schools. "We want to keep our students and staff safe."
LEX 18 looked into Paulson's criminal history, finding he has been in trouble before. According to the McCreary County Circuit Court Clerk, in 2005, Paulson was charged with endangering the welfare of a minor, as well as fourth-degree assault on a child. Documents show that, in both cases, Paulson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.
The McCreary County Superintendent's Office told LEX 18 that Paulson's position did require a State Police background check. The office and the superintendent would not comment further on that part of the story.
"It worries you about sending them to school," said Brannie Vaughn, a parent of three children in McCreary County schools. "There's enough violence in the world without someone saying they're gonna blow up a school."
"If they're doing something like that, they should have no contact with children anymore," another parent, Penny Dawson told LEX 18.
Investigators said they determined the threats were in reference to budget cuts and the loss of employee positions in the school system, though Paulson's position was not impacted. They also said they found no evidence that the school or children were in immediate danger.
Parents of children in the district were notified via phone Tuesday night, according to the superintendent. They were told that everything was safe and that all schools in the district would run on schedule Wednesday.
Paulson declined LEX 18's request for an interview from the Laurel County Detention Center. He is set to appear in court on May 16.