(CBS/AP) — A northern Indiana police chief said Sunday he believes a man arrested after allegedly threatening to “kill as many people as he could” at a school was just bluffing when he made the ominous remark during a heated argument with his wife.
Interim Cedar Lake Police Chief Jerry Smith said Von I. Meyer, 60, was arguing early Friday morning with his wife and initially threatened to set her on fire while she was sleeping at their home.
Meyer, who was arrested Saturday on seven felony charges, then told his wife he would kill her “at the school” and “would kill as many people as he could before police could stop him,” Smith said.
Meyer’s wife works at the cafeteria at Jane Ball Elementary School, less than 1,000 feet from the couple’s home in Cedar Lake, about 45 miles southeast of Chicago.
Smith said Meyer’s wife stayed away from that school Friday and police boosted security at the elementary school and three other area schools as a precaution, taking those steps before 26 people, including 20 students, were shot and killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
“We just didn’t want to take any chances,” he said of the extra security at the schools.
Interim schools superintendent Richard Cook on Monday said Monday he did not see Meyer as a major threat, given the domestic dispute the suspect was having. He apologized for not sending an alert to parents on Friday.
“I dropped the ball that we didn’t send that alert out on Friday,” Cook tells CBS 2’s Chris Martinez.
He said school officials sent their security expert to Ball Elementary on Friday as a precaution. He said two Cedar Lake police officers will patrol schools this week. Meanwhile, Cook said, his office has sent memos to principals directing them to review their school security plans.
Jason Zaideman spent Monday watching his daughter’s school.
“I can see where she’s at,” he said. “If something happens, I’m right there.”
“I think we should have been notified that something was going on, especially all morning watching another school that was just shot up,” parent Patricia Wilson said.
Although police found 47 guns and ammunition hidden throughout Meyer’s two-story home after they arrested him, Smith said most of those weapons were antique collector guns and he believes Meyer was not serious about his school threat.
He said Meyer’s wife told officers their relationship was turbulent and he had often threatened her.
“If people followed through on all the threats they’ve ever made – things said in anger that they don’t really mean and regret – our population in this country would be half of what it is,” he said. “This was something he said in the heat of an argument. He hadn’t been plotting this.”
Meyer fled his home early Friday after his wife reported the alleged threats to police, and he may have gone into hiding in a densely wooded area around his home, Smith said.
Police watched the house, but Meyer apparently slipped back into his home at some point. He was arrested there without incident Saturday on felony intimidation, resisting law enforcement and domestic battery charges.
Meyer remained jailed Sunday without bond at the Lake County Jail, pending an initial hearing on the charges. It wasn’t clear Sunday whether he had an attorney yet.
Police initially said Meyer was “a known member of the Invaders Motorcycle Gang,” but Smith said Sunday evening Meyer is not an active member of that group, although he was affiliated with it in his youth.
Smith said security would remain high at the area’s school in the coming days, mostly because of the heightened concerns nationwide in the wake of the deadly shooting rampage in Connecticut.
“One of your greatest fears is that someone might try to be a copycat,” he said.
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