Student, 12, Charged with Felony After Falsely Reporting a Gunman on Campus
The report, made the day before the anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School, prompted two schools to be locked down and more than 50 law enforcement personnel to swarm the campus.
TAMPA – A sixth grader at Farnell Middle School in Tampa is facing a felony charge after she made up a story of seeing a gunman on campus, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.
The sixth grader, 12, was charged with one felony count of False Report Concerning the Use of a Firearm in a Violent Manner and one second degree misdemeanor charge of Disrupting a School Assembly. The Tampa Bay Reporter is not naming her because she is a minor.
“As large of an advocate as I am for keeping our young people out of the criminal justice system with all of the diversion programs and all of our preventative programs, this is one area where I’m not willing to compromise,” Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “There’s no room for any type of entertainment or joke, any type of made-up threat. I think that the only way to handle this is by taking a hard line stance and making sure all of our children know if you make a school-based threat, it’s no different than making a threat in an airport or in an airplane. It’s going to be [prosecuted] to the fullest extent.”
According to the Hillsborough sheriff’s office, the incident began just before 10 a.m. Wednesday (Feb. 13) when a middle school student made a false statement to a teacher that she saw an unknown man dressed in all black carrying a gun on campus, 13912 Nine Eagles Drive, while she was on her way back from the restroom.
The teacher notified a school resource deputy. In less than 30 seconds, the deputy responded to the area where the student claimed she saw the man, but he did not find him.
Within minutes, the entire campus of Farnell Middle School, and nearby Bryant Elementary School, was flooded with deputies and school security officers. Both schools were put on “lockout” mode, meaning students and staff were told to remain in their classrooms as deputies cleared the hallways and each room in search of a suspect and a weapon. Middle school students were then sent to the auditorium to go through metal detectors. The student who made the initial claim later admitted that she made up the entire story.
“As a parent, it concerns me and is heart wrenching that 1,300 students just had to go in lockout, which means they had to barricade in place as [deputies] stormed the campus. That’s traumatic that these children had to go through that, and its absolutely intolerable,” Chronister said.
More than 55 HCSO personnel were called out to assist, including the aviation, motor and K-9 units. Patrol deputies and detectives were also on scene to aid in the investigation and lockout.The joint effort helped deputies to quickly make the determination that the threat was unfounded and both campuses were safe.
Both schools were transitioned from lockout to lockdown. Students had lunch and went back to their classrooms by 1 p.m.
“To say I’m ecstatic with the response would be an understatement,” Chronister said. “As tragic as this is for the students that just had to endure the entire process of what happens when we go into a lockout at a school, the good news is that every child is safe and the threat has been unfounded.”
While school resource deputies and patrol deputies are constantly trained by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and with school security officers for school-based threats, the approaching anniversary of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School heightened the sense of urgency in Wednesday’s response, deputies said.
Photos courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Hillsborough Sheriff | Crime | School Shooting | Arrests | Tampabay News
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