Cape May County Prosecutor Robert L. Taylor and Lower Township Police Chief William Mastriana on Tuesday (Oct. 8) announced the arrest of Richard Merkel, 23, of Galloway Township for the third degree crime of “false public alarm.”
The arrest stems from an investigation involving the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crimes Unit, the Lower Township Police Department, the United States Secret Service and the Galloway Township Police Department.
The Lower Township Police Department received a phone call on Monday (Oct. 7) from a concerned citizen who alerted the detectives to review comments that had been posted on the YouTube website.
Upon review of the postings, it was learned that a “poster” made threats about placing a bomb at the Lower Cape May Regional High School. The video connected to the postings had no connection to the school or Cape May County.
The investigation led detectives to the residence of Richard Merkel located in the 700 block of South Second Street in Galloway, New Jersey. As a result, Merkel was charged with making false public alarms, a crime of the third degree, and released on a summons.
A search of his residence was conducted and no evidence of bomb-making material or weapons was located. It was determined that Merkel has no ties to the Lower Township Regional High School and had randomly chose its location for his post.
Prosecutor Taylor urges the public to remain vigilant and report all threats to their local police department.
The interruptions in education caused by bomb threats as well as the additional cost associated with emergency response activities and the deployment of first responders to fabricated events, making them unavailable for other emergencies, significantly affects the community as a whole.
Prosecutor Taylor commended all agencies involved in this investigation and would like to highlight the fact that the initial caller, who is not a New Jersey resident, alerted law enforcement, which quickly led to the arrest of Merkel. Prosecutor Taylor urges the citizens of Cape May County to report any information regarding criminal activity within their community and that this information can be reported anonymously through the Cape May County Sheriffs Tip Line at cmcsheriff.net and click on anonymous tip, or through the Cape May County Crime Stoppers at 609-465-2800 or 877-465-2801, Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office Tip Line at 609-463-5323.
— News release from the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office