A 15-year-old was recently arrested in Ormond Beach, Florida, after making threats to shoot up his school online.
A video of the arrest, in which his mother tried to argue with officers that her son was just making a joke, has gone viral.
School shooting threat arrest 8/16/19 youtu.be
The 15-year-old, known as FalconWarrior920 on Discord, said in an online game of Minecraft:
"I Dalton Barnhart vow to bring my fathers m15 to school and kill 7 people at a minimum."
Dalton Barnhart is not the teen's real name, but a pseudonym used to protect the minor's identity.
A screenshot of FalconWarrior920's statement was later posted to Discord before being sent as an anonymous tip to the FBI.
Officers would soon arrive at the teen's house, charging him with making threats to discharge a destructive device (a felony).
The Sheriff's office released a statement on social media saying:
"After the mass violence we've seen in Florida and across the country, law enforcement officers have a responsibility to investigate and charge those who choose to make these types of threatening statements."
@BuzzFeedNews This is an important lesson for all parents of teens playing video games with internet access to all… https://t.co/BhUefWy11y— Linda Clarke (@Linda Clarke)1566487416.0
As officers arrested the young man, his mother tried to defend him, saying:
"He's just a little kid playing a video game."
@BuzzFeedNews @Fran_Neena20409 15 yrs old isn’t exactly a “little boy”— Anne Rose (@Anne Rose)1566422319.0
She didn't believe her son understood the full meaning of his words.
"It is a joke to them. It's a game."
But one of the arresting officers, Detective Howard, stood steadfast and told the mother:
"And all these kids keep getting arrested. That's why the FBI and the local law enforcement are spending so much time on this, because how do we know he's not going to be the kid from Parkland…that he's not going to be the next kid, the kid that shot up Sandy Hook. We don't know that."
Wow, never thought I’d be saying good job to police in Florida!! But GOOD JOB. You’re “little boy” was gonna go and… https://t.co/MveQ4DvfH3— Cam (@Cam)1566489896.0
Ultimately, however, it makes little difference whether or not the teen's comments were joking. According to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, "jokes or not, these types of comments are felonies under the law."
Howard would reiterate this sentiment during the arrest:
"So if I get on there and say 'I pledge ISIS and I'm going to blow everybody up,' that's the same charge as 'you know what man, I'm fed up and I'm going to school tomorrow and shoot up my school.'"
Kids (or adults) who think it's funny to go and shoot up a school should be made to accompany first responders when… https://t.co/LYOAGERWuI— Stuart Hakin (@Stuart Hakin)1566475323.0
The mother claimed her son did not have access to the gun, though authorities could not confirm whether or not this was true, saying:
"So he has hands and feet. He can grab your gun and go do something."
The mother responded:
"He would never do anything like that."
But the officers were unswayed.
"We don't know that."
@BuzzFeedNews Kudos to the police who didn’t shrug it off as child’s play.— Kymberlyn (@Kymberlyn)1566423471.0
I don’t want to live in a society where saying “I’m going to kill people” is a joke. This mom needs to get her head… https://t.co/v0aLRPDHhI— Jennifer Perry (@Jennifer Perry)1566437518.0
The teen would later admit to authorities he had written the message, but continued to insist it was made as a joke. Officers are frustrated by the frequency of such threats, often made jokingly online where young people feel relatively anonymous.
Twitter was disappointed by the state of our country, where the constant threat of gun violence has pushed us to react in ways like this.
School starts in two weeks. To say that I am extremely uncomfortable sending my kiddo this year is an understatemen… https://t.co/jx7LFQlKuR— Audley “Can you fight, Chris?” Darke (@Audley “Can you fight, Chris?” Darke)1566487321.0
DOES ANY PARENT THINK THEIR KID WOULD DO THIS?? WARN YOUR CHILDREN, THIS IS NOT A JOKE!! THAT FELONY WILL PROB. FOL… https://t.co/tIOVILhJ6S— juju's other (@juju's other)1566476365.0
The other arresting officer, Werfel, told the teen's mother:
"This is the world we're in where kids are getting shot at school while they're trying to learn. And unfortunately we can't take risks and we can't say 'alright, we trust that this guy is not going to do it' and then it happens and then we say 'well, we had the chance to stop it.'"
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