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Florida Judge Dismisses Case Against Teen Who Allegedly Plotted Mass Shooting

The Baker County Sheriff's Office said it is pushing to appeal Circuit Court Judge Gloria Walker's ruling.

Baker County, FL – A Florida judge has dismissed all charges against a 15-year-old student accused of writing and sharing six pages of “detailed notes” about his plans to carry out a mass shooting at a high school in Glen St. Mary.

The unnamed teen wrote about his desire to “kill officers” and the Baker County High School gatekeeper, “then go one by one,” WJXT reported.

“Kill the first responders first,” he penned in a composition notebook. “There will most likely be chaos. You kill as much as you can before the other students/teachers notice.”

The teen’s notes included specific times and dates for potential attacks, as well as where certain people he wanted to kill would be located at those times, WTSP reported.

The student figured that, based on the distance between the Baker County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) and the high school, he would have a nine-minute window to carry out a mass shooting before law enforcement arrived, BCSO Major Randy Crews said, according to WJXT.

He later shared his writings with another student, which Maj. Crews said qualified as “transmitting” the threats under Florida law.

The student who saw the teen’s plans for the attack subsequently reported the alleged plot to a teacher.

Investigators seized the notebook containing his detailed plans, and were stunned by the student’s thoroughness.

“We felt he was very much a threat,” Baker County Sheriff Scotty Rhoden said, according to WJXT. “Since I’ve been here at the Sheriff’s Office, for many years, I’ve never seen anything as detailed and as much thought process. When we read the notebook, it was very troublesome.”

Investigators located firearms inside the teen’s home, but his parents told police he did not have access to them.

The boy acknowledged having penned the content in the notebook, but denied having intended to actually carry out an attack, WTSP reported.

His last entry was made on the day of his arrest, Maj. Crews noted.

According to Florida statute, it is a second-degree felony to write and send threats to kill or cause bodily injury “ to the person to whom such letter or communication is sent, or a threat to kill or do bodily injury to any member of the family of the person to whom such letter or communication is sent, or any person who makes, posts, or transmits a threat in a writing or other record, including an electronic record, to conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism, in any manner that would allow another person to view the threat.”

But last week, Circuit Court Judge Gloria Walker dismissed all charges against the teen during a bench trial, claiming that prosecutors could not prove that the threats had been “transmitted” under the law, WTSP reported.

Maj. Crews discussed the case with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission on Tuesday, according to WJXT.

“Prosecution plead with the judge about the case law, about the case, about the interpretation of the law and quite frankly the judge disagreed and dismissed the case,” Maj. Crews explained to the commission. “If it’s got a law that needs to be clarified – I’m not a lawyer. It was clear to me. It was clear to the prosecutor.”

“This is a case where everything was done the way it should have been done,” the major added. “A kid saw something and said something, took it to the teachers, school resource officers were involved, we investigated.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who is also chairman of the commission, called Walker’s ruling “disturbing,” and also seemed confused by the judge’s decision, WJXT reported.

“The question is, does the statute need to be changed? I don’t see anything in statute that needs to be changed,” Sheriff Gualtieri said. “This seems to be a situation that happened in one place and a decision made by one court…It’s unfortunate and extremely troubling, and all we can do is hope this kid, who is out on the street, does not execute his plan.”

Another commissioner, Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett, said the best recourse would likely be to encourage voters not to elect Walker in the next election, WJXT reported.

In a statement on Wednesday, Sheriff Rhoden said that he was “extremely disappointed” by Walker’s ruling.

“The law in this case is written in clear language describing the creation of this document as a second degree felony,” he wrote. “I believe this case was clear and should have had a different outcome.”

The sheriff noted that the law prohibits Superintendent Sherrie Raulerson from speaking about the case publicly, but he assured citizens that they have been “in constant contact” as they look for other “options.”

“We will not waiver in our resolve to do all that we can to keep our schools safe. Should an incident like this occur again we will respond the exact same way,” Sheriff Rhoden wrote. “I want to commend my staff and the school staff for their professionalism displayed throughout this entire process. They did exactly what they were trained to do in this situation and prevented what could have been a tragic outcome.”

Sheriff Rhoden said that he and prosecutors are working with the attorney general’s office, and that they plan to appeal Walker’s ruling, WJXT reported.

Holly Matkin - October Wed, 2019

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