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SWAT Team and Fire Flight Deliver: 20-Year-Old Is Caught at 3:25 p.m. on John Anderson Hwy

| December 12, 2012

Will Hofer immediately after his arrest this afternoon at 3:35 p.m. as he was being cuffed on John Anderson Highway. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

Last Updated: Dec. 13, 9:48 a.m.

Will Gerald Hofer, the 20-year-old man the Flagler County Sheriff’s office had been hunting since this morning, was caught and apprehended on John Anderson Highway moments ago, at 2:25 p.m.

Will Hofer played to the camera during his arrest. click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

Hofer was unharmed, in a white t-shirt, and at one point was heard urging on a photographer to shoot more pictures of him. A Flagler County sheriff’s deputy reminded him that that wasn’t the smartest thing to say just then. It isn;t clear whether he was caught with weapons, though earlier in the day there’d been reports that he had a semi-automatic weapon with him. He’d posted several images of himself with weaponry.

One reason for his decision to issue threat, reportedly, is that other people had been making fun of him for grieving effusively over the loss of a friend, shot dead recently.

Members of the SWAT team and other sheriff’s deputies were clearly relieved after the arrest, having spent the majority of the day on the hunt for a man they feared was intent on causing harm in one of the schools. Hofer had threatened to attack students at one of the two high schools, and shoot them, until he was shot by a cop–a suicide by cop desire he’d advertised on his Facebook page.

Authorities were able to ascertain quickly who he was, and that he was not anywhere in any of the schools. They established lock-downs to ensure that anyone entering the schools did not, obviously, fit his description, and were able to let school authorities know that they were not in danger. But as long as Hofer remained at large, a threat remained, keeping police and school officials on edge.

Exactly 30 minutes after the arrest on John Anderson, a school bus from an elementary school dropped off at child one house down.

Hofer was charged with making written threats to kill, and violation of probation. He is at the Flagler County jail on $101,500 bond.

2:55 p.m. update: Fire Flight, Flagler County’s emergency helicopter, has launched and is circling over the northern edge of John Anderson Highway in Flagler Beach in search of the 20-year-old would-be gunman the sheriff’s office has been hunting since morning. The sherif’s SWAT team is deployed on the ground in that area, where K-9 units and several heavily armed men are searching woods and lots in the area of the 700 block of John Anderson Highway. The search is not affecting traffic.

Will Gerald Hofer, the 20-year-old, who had once been in honors clases at FPC, is reportedly upset over the death of his friend, Rick Harper, who was shot and killed on Dec. 9. during a home invasion in which Harper is alleged to have been a suspect. That shooting took place in Palatka.Hofer had lived on Zaun Trail, but was thrown out of his house a few months ago. Both of his parents are local residents.

Hofer’s Instagram memorial to his friend, whose death may be the reason behind Hofer’s threats. Click on the image for larger view.

Hofer had memorialized his friend in an Instagram post. (See to the right.)

The high schools have released their students.

Earlier: Three unrelated wrecks in the space of two and a half hours at two locations–Palm Coast Parkway and I-95, and U.S. 1, just north of Old Dixie Highway–stretched emergency responders this Wednesday morning, starting at 6:30 a.m.

But as two of the latter wrecks unfolded, Flagler Palm Coast High School and Matanzas High School were ordered on lockdown, after school authorities were told of Facebook comments that had the sheriff’s office concerned. No actual incidents have been reported, suggesting that the lockdowns are precautionary measures. Little further information is known about the lockdown, which is ongoing.

More information about the wrecks will follow.

Daytona State College’s Palm Coast campus was also locked down, the sheriff’s office reported later in the morning, heightening the severity of the situation. The sheriff’s office had originally reported that Imagine School at Town Center was part of the lockdown. Lisa O’Grady, the principal at Imagine, said that was not the case: the school had a normal day, and was never on lock-down.

“We’re just taking precautionary measures,” School Superintendent Janet Valentine said a little after 10 a.m. Traffic was coming in and out of FPC at around 10 a.m., and students changed classes at the bell, suggesting a modified rather than strict lockdown. People entering the school were being checked at the gate. Otherwise, campus looked calm.

Valentine said the lockdown was the result of “a threat of what was going to on at the school,” detected on an individual’s Facebook page. She did not have further information. It wasn’t clear whether Matanzas was, in fact, on lockdown, though authorities reported it as such.

Valentine was on the road this morning, on her way to a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott in Tampa, with other school authorities from around the state.

Gerald Hofer

The Facebook threat was reportedly carried out by a former student at FPC (he graduated there in 2011), who now may be attending Daytona State College. The student was later identified as Gerald Hofer, who was on Nov. 2 arrested in Flagler County on a probation violation charge.

He is still at large. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at (386) 313-4911.

He allegedly posted images of guns and threatened to attack students, possibly at FPC, until cops stopped him. He is not at either school, but may have been in contact with students at one of the schools. The situation at FPC is reported under control, with no danger posed to the students or staff. Traffic, including school buses, continued to move in and out of the school at 11 a.m.

Unlike the trigger of previous lock-downs, this one is not related to fights or gang activity or the spill-over effect of issues in the community. Rather, the 20-year-old is believed to be personally distraught, possibly over the loss of his own brother.

Jacob Oliva, the district’s deputy superintendent, said the sheriff’s office contacted the district this morning to report the concerns about the Facebook comments, and recommend a “perimeter lockdown.”

That means people entering and leaving the school are checked more carefully, and anyone entering the school has to have proof of belonging there, or reason to be there, Oliva said. Also, students are being disallowed from taking part in activities outside the school buildings themselves, as a precaution. The district sent out an automated call to parents, “to let them know our kids are safe,” Oliva said.

“We’re running our classes as usual, in fact I think they’re even doing end-of-course exams in some of the classes,” Oliva said.

At the U.S. 1 wreck, Ashley Blackburn, 23, was at the wheel of her car when she lost control on the slick pavement just north of Korona, and ended up striking the woods. Her 5-month-old child, Brantley, was in the car. Both were taken to Florida Hospital Flagler, the child with minor injuries. Blackburn had to be extricated from the car, but her injuries are non-life-threatening.

An older woman at the wheel of an older-model, two-door Mustang was also involved, crashing her Mustang about 300 feet further south. She was not injured and refused medical attention. Authorities are treating the two wrecks, which took place at 8:40 a.m., as separate incidents. Two hours earlier at the same location, but in the media, a pick-up truck overturned, resulting in minor injuries to the driver.

On Palm Coast Parkway just after 8 a.m., two vehicles were involved in a minor wreck at the off ramp from I-95, into the westbound lanes of Palm Coast Parkway. One patient was taken to Florida Hospital Flagler, several others refused treatment at the scene. One of the two westbound lanes was shut down for close to an hour. At the same time as these incidents were unfolding on the roads, Flagler County Fire Rescue paramedics had to respond to an incident involving a burn to a very young child, and another medical issue on Corporate Drive in Palm Coast.

A 23-year-old woman and her 6-month-old daughter were in the car when it hit another and ended up in the wood-line on U.S. 1, near Old Dixie Highway this morning. (FlaglerLive)

Traffic continued in and out of FPC, but with stricter verifications by school and police authorities. (FlaglerLive)

The SWAT team was searching an area of John Anderson Highway in Flagler Beach around 3 p.m. as Fire Flight searched from the air. (FlaglerLive)

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64 Responses for “SWAT Team and Fire Flight Deliver: 20-Year-Old Is Caught at 3:25 p.m. on John Anderson Hwy”

  1. Biker says:

    If you google this guys friend Ricky Harper, it appears from intilal news reports that Mr Harper was shot to death in Palatka Saturday night, while he and another person were committong a robbery. According to news reports the victim shot Haper during the robbery and Harpers cohort then fled the scene. Wonder where boy wonder was Saturday night.?? Just saying!!


  2. Lara Greenert says:

    I didn’t get a automated call about anything until 5pm. Kind of disappointing that it took that long for the call alerting me, as a parent.


  3. WWSC says:

    I have to say that I feel that the Flagler County Sherriff and the School board did an excellent job as a parent with a senior at ‘Matanzas it is a very difficult situation and it does suck for the parents because they really can’t tell us neither because who knows if some one is going to say something and start a panic or try and help the said perpetrater. Again great job by both Agencies and if any one thinks they can do better just wait until you are put in a situation like that and have to make the decisions.


  4. WWSC says:

    Oh one other thing people who ever wants to bash our law enforcement why don’t you look at the crime rates in our surrounding counties and then look at ours they must be doing something right. Seriously wake up and try supporting them for the job that they do


  5. BeachGuy says:

    Sorry, but the car wreck means nothing to me when reading this article. Glad everyone is safe, but not sure how these two stories co-mingle. This punk should be locked up for a long time, where he can pin the gun photos to his cell wall.


  6. Stevie says:

    Public schools provide a central target for people like this guy. These types of incidents have been increasing all over the country. Just the threat of violence shuts down the whole system. This could not happen if education was decentralized and spread out.

    Public schools have become prisons where the government controls parental access.


  7. BeachGuy says:

    BTW, do any Flagler County high school graduates ever leave home to make something of themselves? Or is DBCC, and joining a gang, the only option?


    • Shane says:

      Um I would have to say yes to answer your question. I am a 24 year resident of this county and graduated from FPC. I went to school afterwards to obtain a fire certificate and EMT license and currently work for a local Fire Department for 15 years now. I also have my AS Degree in Fire Science. I have one son who graduated from FPC in 2008 and went into the US Army in the 82nd Airborne and served our great country with a tour in Iraq. He is now back home and attending college getting a degree in culinary arts. Another son graduated FPC last year and is attending Stetson for music education. My daughter is graduating in May and is looking to go to school for Psychology. So we might only be 4 that did something, but I’m sure there are many others. Ans why is DSC so bad? Isn’t a college degree from there the same as anywhere else? Maybe kids can’t get into a 4 year college right off the bat, so getting a 2 year degree from there and transferring to a bigger university is a bad thing? Must be nice to have your money where you could do that…


  8. Seriously says:

    @BeachGuy DBCC is no longer a community college, it is a state accredited school where multiple people attend to make themselves better. Don’t judge everyone who goes there as someone who isn’t ‘making something of themselves’ because one idiot who didn’t even attend a class made some horrible decisions.


  9. Tired says:

    janedoe, I’m sorry for your friend. Yes, I only saw the one facebook post. If law enforcement and the school district had not acted in the manner that they did I would be very upset. Yes, this incident cost us manhours but that is a small price to pay in comparison to lives. Many of the past shootings that have taken place were meant to harm specific people but others were victims as well. It’s to great a risk. Obviously he was distraught and not thinking clearly, nobody can really tell exactly what he was going to do and not do. Caution is always best, particularly when it comes to our children.


  10. JL says:

    Beachguy – yes, many of Flagler’s graduates go on to make “something of themselves” – Many went on to college and received degrees, from all over the United States, including Ivy League colleges, some went on to enlist in the military. My sons and their friends are products of the Flagler school system. They have all gone on to great careers. I am confident this country will do so much better once they are running the country. My generation sure is ruining it for everyone. But I look at these young men (20-30s), and I know we’ll be ok because soon they will be in charge.


  11. Steven Wood says:

    Well evidently these people are more worried about the politics of this IDIOT. It goes to show just how close Flagler County could have been the one on the news today instead of up in Conn. where 20 children are dead. This IDIOT was just that close so thank god who ever got him not the politics dumb asses.


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