A former Lincoln-Way Central High School teacher who checked himself into a Chicago hospital for psychiatric care faces a felony charge of telephone harassment in connection with alleged threats against school district officials.
A warrant for the arrest of Ryan Gardner, 40, was secured late Tuesday afternoon.
Gardner, who reportedly lives with his parents in downstate Danville, headed north and voluntarily checked himself into University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, said Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow. Even though he is receiving psychiatric care, Gardner would have been able to leave the hospital of his own volition, Glasgow said.
Officials hit Gardner with the felony charge, accusing him of calling Lincoln-Way School District Deputy Superintendent Thomas Eddy on Dec. 6.
About a week after the call to Eddy, officials in the Danville area learned of him threatening to "shoot and kill" officials from the Lincoln-Way School District, a law enforcement official said.
Authorities also reportedly learned Gardner was talking about trying to get his hands on a gun and that he told at least one person in the Danville area that he was given permission by a minister to kill someone.
Glasgow said his office has been communicating with officials from Vermilion County, where Gardner resides, about potential charges against Gardner in that jurisdiction as well.
Gardner has been charged with threatening Lincoln-Way officials twice before. He was first arrested in 2004 and eventually pleaded guilty to telephone harassment. The plea got Gardner a 120-day jail sentence.
Gardner was again charged with telephone harassment in April 2007. The charges were later boosted to felony harassment by electronic communication, but Gardner was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
The arrest warrant issued Tuesday was forwarded to the police department at University of Illinois Hospital, Glasgow said. When Gardner is released from care, he will be taken to the Will County jail and held on $750,000 bail.
Glasgow said putting together the case against Gardner quickly was vital, especially in the wake of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
"In light of what happened in Connecticut, we have to be at a heightened level," he said.
Lincoln-Way spokeswoman Stacy Holland confirmed late Tuesday that Gardner taught at Lincoln-Way Central. She said she would have more details of his employment history Wednesday.
Lincoln-Way High School District 210's response to the threats
A statement on the LWHSD210 web page posted today reads:
"This message is for our parents of the students of the Lincoln-Way High School District 210. A former Lincoln-Way Central High School teacher is being charged with telephone harassment in connection with alleged threats against school district officials. He is in the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago.
"Our first priority is to provide a safe environment for your students. We have security and crisis plans that have been developed and practiced with area police, fire and emergency services. We meet on a regular basis with local first responders to discuss and review appropriate action in the event of an emergency.
"Our buildings are locked and we have reviewed and practiced the crisis plans with all our staff and students at the beginning of each school year. In addition, each high school has a Will County Deputy School Resource Officer stationed in each school.
"We are working with law enforcement officials to resolve this issue."