Florida high schooler arrested after ‘joke’ shooting threat
Police are investigating potential threats after a Palmetto High School student wrote disturbing posts on social media, according to Palmetto Chief of Police Scott Tyler.
“We became aware of a student back on Monday that had made some disturbing social media posts. None of these posts made direct threats to Palmetto or any specific students or people,” Tyler said on Thursday afternoon. “They were a little dark and some of them may be violent. His purposes was to try start a cult and he was trying to find people to join him.”
The Palmetto High campus is safe, principal Carl Auckerman told families of students in a message to the Blackboard Connected system and on Facebook when alerting them of the investigation.
The school is not on lockdown, said Mike Barber, spokesman for the School District of Manatee County.
There was additional law enforcement presence at all schools in the city of Palmetto on Thursday. That presence was especially visible at Palmetto High School around dismissal time with several marked and unmarked police vehicles around the entire perimeter of the school, and even the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office assisting with extra patrol support.
Palmetto police have already conducted a threat assessment, according to Tyler. They have spoken to the boy, who is no longer on campus, and interviewed the family more than once.
The additional police presence was “really just to put people’s mind at ease,” because police determined there was no threat to any schools, Tyler said.
The school received information via the FortifyFL app and is working with law enforcement in the investigation, according to the message from the school.
“First and foremost you should know our school is safe and these matters are being addressed expeditiously,” Auckerman wrote in his message.
On Thursday, however, rumors were circulating claiming or questioning whether actual threats had been made, according to Tyler.
“We’ve been dealing with a lot of misinformation, exaggeration and second-hand information,” he said.
The police department took to social media to address the rumors.
“Today, we have experienced one of the worst episodes of false rumors perpetuating via social media and text messaging,” the department posted on Facebook. “The societal impact of these rumor mills puts people in unnecessary states of fear and panic, which draw an immense amount of resources from schools and public safety… and we are doing it to ourselves. Please, take the time to evaluate information when you hear it, and go to a reliable source to see if it is true before spreading it to friends and family or posting it to social media.”