A Florida police officer arresting a teen who allegedly threatened to carry out a mass shooting had frank words for his stunned mother: “How do we know he’s not going to be like the kid from Parkland?”
Volusia County officers questioned the 15-year-old and his mother outside their home near Daytona Beach on Aug. 16. Later, they posted a bodycam video of the conversation on Facebook.
In the video, the officer reads from a cellphone and recites a message posted on Discord, a popular video gaming chat platform, under the fake name Dalton Barnhart.
“I Dalton Barnhart vow to bring my father’s M15 to school and kill seven people at a minimum,” the officer reads.
When the officer asks who Dalton Barnhart is, the boy answers, “me.” He tells the officer it was a joke.
The officers promptly ask him to put his hands behind his back and place him under arrest. As they handcuff the teen, his mother protests.
“But he’s just a little kid playing a video game,” she tells the officer. “These kids say stuff like that all the time. It’s a joke to them. It’s a game. And it’s so wrong. I hate that game.”
The deputy says officers now spend more time investigating threats of this nature in the wake of a slew of mass shootings across the U.S.
“How do we know that he’s not going to be like that kid from Parkland, or he’s not going to be like that kid that shot up Sandy Hook? We don’t know that,” he says.
“My time in law enforcement is spent arresting these kids for making these statements all the time.”
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The officer explains that the teen is being accused of violating a Florida law and will be charged with a second- or third-degree felony “for making a threat to cause a mass shooting/act of terrorism.”
He tells her that her son will be taken to a juvenile jail.
“He’s just a little boy, he wouldn’t do anything wrong,” she says again, her voice choked with emotion. “He’s not one of the crazy people out there doing stuff.”
She adds that the statement on the game messenger was “silly” and that her son is not a terrorist.
“Yeah, well, he did what he did,” the officer responds.
When asked if there is a gun in the home, the woman says yes.
“This is the world we live in, where people think it’s funny to say, ‘I’m going to kill people at school,’” the officer says. “He’s going to face the consequences.”
In the nearly three weeks since two mass shootings left a total of 31 people dead in the U.S., law enforcement has ramped up efforts to thwart possible threats.
The FBI responded to the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, with a directive for agencies nationwide to conduct new assessments on possible threats out of concern domestic terrorists could be inspired by the attacks and “engage in similar acts of violence.”
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According to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, 18 students have been arrested in the 2018-19 school year for threatening to shoot up their schools.
“Jokes or not, these types of comments are felonies under the law,” the sheriff’s office wrote on Twitter.
“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.”
— With files from the Associated Press