Jurors were shown a recording Tuesday of a New Richmond teenager explaining to an investigator what he said that raised alarms earlier this year at his workplace and around the community.
The 19-year-old, who is on trial for making a terrorist threat, was interviewed March 30 by St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office investigator Cary Rose.
In the recording, played Sept. 18 for the jury, Rose asks Cherrier to use his own words to describe the conversation in question.
“Something I brought up about shooting a school,” he said after struggling to recall the exchange with a coworker at Nor-Lake Inc. in the town of Hudson.
“Did he confront you about it, or did you just ... “ Rose says.
“He just like said something,” Cherrier replies.
“About a school?”
“Yeah,” Cherrier says. “And then I said, like, ‘Yeah I’m gonna do that.’ And he said, ‘Oh, that’s not cool.’ And I said, ‘OK, I’m not gonna do that anymore then.’ Something like that. I honestly can’t even really remember it.”
“But there was a conversation between you and Todd about shooting up a school,” Rose said, referring to Todd Emery, the Nor-Lake employee who said Cherrier mentioned “shooting kids.”
“I guess, yeah. If he’d said that,” Cherrier responds.
Rose then asked Cherrier about his intentions - what was behind the comment.
“I have a stupid sense of humor,” Cherrier said.
He admits in the interview that while he didn’t mention any specific person or school, that he did make a reference of the like.
“I don’t know if I actually said ‘kids’ or if I said ‘school,’” Cherrier said.
The comment, made March 29, led to a chain of discussion and rumors among workers at the Nor-Lake plant, which, according to testimony given Tuesday, was eventually taken to senior management. Company officials met the next morning and eventually reported it through the sheriff’s office.
Nor-Lake Vice President of Operations Jeff Blackwell testified that he placed the call, which was “something I felt we had to do for the safety of the company.”
“In this day and age, to be honest, you can’t take chances,” he said.
Blackwell went on to describe how the incident involving Cherrier led to a lockdown at the plant, which remains in effect to this day, along with permanent key-card access security measures. He said the company hired armed, uniformed officers to patrol its town of Hudson plant and its downtown Hudson offices for at least week after Cherrier was released from jail on bond. Nor-Lake footed the bill, he said, at a “very considerable expense.”
Rose also began his testimony - which continued into Wednesday - during the hearing. The interview he did on March 30 was meant “to find out who Nicholas Cherrier was,” Rose said.
The video begins with Sheriff Scott Knudson talking with Cherrier about everyday things - family, school, job opportunities.
“Nice chatting with you, good luck,” Knudson says as Rose arrives.
He leaves and Rose starts the formal interview, where he quickly gets into Cherrier’s work environment and it’s learned he had been disciplined once at Nor-Lake for being late and that he was likely on “thin ice” with the company.
Rose queries Cherrier about his decision to buy body armor, a purchase Cherrier admitted his brother and father frowned upon. He said there’s a “99.9 percent” chance he would never need it, but that he ordered it for protection.
“I’d rather have it if I ever were to need it,” Cherrier tells the investigator.
On the subject of guns and ammunition, of which Cherrier said he owned several, he said he shoots guns in his backyard and sparingly at a Hudson gun range.
Rose later tells Cherrier that, given recent events involving mass shootings, the allegations from Nor-Lake put law enforcement and others on edge. Asked if it concerned him, Cherrier said those events “shouldn’t be happening.”
Testimony in the trial was expected to last through Friday.