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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. Just Me says:

    Thanks for the info, FL. Please keep us updated, especially on the lockdowns, as I have a child at FPC.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Our local high school was on lockdown. The school told me t call the Sheriff dept. The Sheriff dept passed me to 4 different dispatchers who couldn’t tell me what was going on. What kind of Law enforcement officials leave parents hanging with no information? I am UTTERLY disgusted with the Flagler County Sheriff dept!

    • SJS says:

      I agree. The school system has an automated phone system that calls my house everyday about EVERYTHING…except for today of course and no help from FPC at all. I think maybe they need to get their priorities straight. My kids lifes are apparently at stake!

    • pawn says:

      I’m sure with three wrecks, and three schools on lockdown, FCSO probably has some better things to attend to, and rightfully so. Not no mention there are likely a lot of other parents calling them for information, so resources are running thin. Would you rather have the Sheriff Dept. figure out what’s going on at the school and keep you kid safe, or should they be at your beck and call to let you know what might be happening?

    • Anonymous says:

      I would be more disgusted at the school district!

    • michelle says:

      Don flemming is awful. thankfully he is leaving!

      • 4 cents says:

        In 3 years you will be saying the same thing about the new sheriff it’s a vicious cycle no one is ever happy with the top gun in this county.

      • Reality Check says:

        Maybe in your opinion, but the Manfre is a prover ego-maniac and he will dstroy the dept and county dudget with his dictatorship

    • Robert Lewis says:

      As I am no fan of Don Fleming, and not a fan of future Sheriff Jim Manfre, I am first to bash to response of our Sheriffs Department. However in this case, I must disagree with you.

      A dispatcher has no idea who the heck you are on the phone. They have no way of telling if you are a concerned parents or the gunman. For the safety and security of your child and everyone else, that information is not released.

      Your compliant about lack of information is legitimate. Parents faced the same reaction during the 1998 columbine shootings. No one could get information. The solution: The school district set up a point of contact where parents can come in and get information on what is going on.

      Whenever there is a situation of safety, no information should be given over the phone to a parent or any “concerned citizen”. Can you imagine if someone posing as a “concerned parent” calls and gets information only to in turn use it against the students? What would people say to that?

      You should direct your complaint to the school district and not our law enforcement officials. Law Enforcement is there to protect your kid. The School District is and should be responsible for disseminating accurate information in a manner that is consistent with safety procedures.

      I think an apology for being “UTTERLY disgusted” with the Flagler County Sheriffs dept is in order. They weren’t in the wrong here.

      • Copswifey says:

        Thanks!!! Very well said!! They do what is best to keep our children safe!! Maybe if more parents paid attention to their kids instead if bashing others, we wouldn’t have situations like this!!!

      • Anonymous says:

        Just as you say that the blame shouldn’t put on the sheriff department, it shouldn’t be on the school district either! The district complies with the same reasoning that you mention above in regards to NOT divulging information in fear that it may be giving to the gunman. THERE was an automated message sent to parents and employees of the school district. Many parents don’t update their contact information, as seems to be normal for this county, therefore they don’t get the message. It is by no means the fault of either party. The blame goes to the suspect making threats. I don’t care how distraught he was about the loss of a friend, nothing can be that terrible that you would threaten to do the same harm to another person, as was done to his friend whom was shot and killed in the same manner in which he was threatening. That is a kid with some serious mental issues.

      • Beach Resident says:

        Robert Lewis,

        Thank you for your sane and quieting comment. Reality check…..

    • Anonymous says:

      They leave the with no information for good reason. If a shooter is one of the schools and you come barging in you can get yourself shot or you can screw something up to get A KID or someone else killed. Sometimes you have to just do. I know it’s your child but sometimes a parent can make things worse.

  3. JL says:

    I wouldn’t blame the Sheriff’s office. They can’t always give out information over the phone. You never know who is trying to get that information. I have confidence in our police that they had the situation under control. We can’t always know exactly what is happening the moment it’s happening. Patience and prayers. Works for me. I understand because I have 3 sons and have been there. But sometimes you just have to wait it out.

  4. Deep South says:

    Wet road s causing hydroplaning is a bad combination. Slow it down a bit on days like this.

  5. Donna Heiss says:

    @Elizabeth. Dispatchers have no authority to give out information.

    • Shirley says:

      Then what good are they ? Everything in this “nightmare” city is secret secret. Total lack of community inter-action. If my children are in a school that is “locked down” because of a possible insane killer loose in the school…I WANT TO KNOW NOW !!!!!! Get it together Flagler County before something larger and more dangerous possible happens.

      • just a thought says:

        Really Shirley, “What good are they?” The next time you are in need of LEO or the fire department and call 911 who do you think will send them to you? Don’t you think the dispatchers may be a little busy sending help to those who call for emergency’s then to tell you everything that is going on in the public. That is why the FCSO has a public information officer.

        When you are in need of 911 because somebody in your family is dieing then you will find out “what good they are.”

      • Robert Lewis says:

        What good are they?

        Next time your house is on fire, you need an ambulance or a police officer.. we will see how good they are.

        Let’s not blow things out of proportion here. You want to know NOW?? Take your butt to the school and ask the school district officials. They are the ones responsible for setting up a point of contact, and do so in a manner that is consistent with safety procedures.

        That dispatcher probably just saved your kids butt!! Since your children are in a school that is on lock down because of a “possible insane killer in the school”, they are protecting those kids by not giving out information to someone they can not verify. When you call on a phone, they have no idea if you are Shirley, Jimmy, Johnny, Suzie, or Heather!

        I get your concern and your over dramatization to win you parent of the year. Lets not be so haste to make demands without thinking. I suggest you voice your concern to the school district for not having a point of contact who was available to give information face to face.

        Lets not be silly and think just because we call on a phone we are entitled to information. Not only is it a security threat to release information over the phone to an unidentified person acting as a “concerned parent”. Also it can compromise the integer of an investigation or search in progress.

      • patrice lewis says:

        @Shirley As parents we are distraught that harm may come to our children from a deranged individual but patience is the best way to get that info. The police or the school can not effectively protect our children if they are trying to carol self centered obnoxious self righteous parents. I find it so typical of people that blame others when they do not get what they want..I had a daughter and a nephew at each of the HS and I attend DSC so I can tell you I wanted the info also and got it as it became available. I agree that PC is a nightmare but no different than any other place in America.

    • Albert Einstein says:

      You have a right to know what’s going on in your community. By law, the sheriff’s dep’t has to disclose what’s going on. They are not allowed to reveal personal information.

      • Nancy N. says:

        You are misunderstanding the concept of sunshine law and public information. They don’t have to disclose everything, or disclose it the moment you ask for it. They can withhold information that would compromise an investigation, or only release it through certain authorized individuals like an official department spokesperson to make sure that information is correct and not handed out that shouldn’t be. Dispatchers are most likely NOT authorized to make public statements on behalf of the department, which is what you are asking them to do when you call and ask for information.

  6. glad fly says:

    thanks for reporting this information…your news is always timely and helpful..the “other” local paper mainly reports on unicorns,fairies and milllion dollar home sales in the hammock that nobody can afford.

  7. GK says:

    My son attends Matanzas and I got the message saying that are indeed on lockdown as a precautionary measure.

  8. Tired says:

    Thank you for the update. I’d much rather get my info here and free-up the Sherrif’s office and School District personel to get this situation taken care of. Thanks!

  9. devrie says:

    I think if there is an ongoing investigation, they can only give limited information.

  10. Xaddgx says:

    Hey there everyone. I’m a kid from Matanzas High School, and I’d just like to support all you parents and concerned people out there by saying we here at Matanzas are completely fine. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened, just a bunch of rumors and speculation about the messages across Facebook. We’re about to get out, but no casualties have been had. We’re not necessarily on a lock-down, there is just some increased security for now. They’ll probably be examining every kid who is walking out of the school just in case, so don’t be worried if your child comes out a bit late or comes home a bit late, etc. Safe days to you all!

  11. James says:

    Did she just ask what good are dispatchers? You’re joking right?

  12. Maryjoe says:

    Oh my god…the condition of that car! I can’t believe they survived.

  13. FPCmomof2 says:

    I am disgusted by the whole mess. I have two sons at FPC and only learned of this when my husband wen to pick them up after school. The sheriff who checked my truck told my husband to watch the news to find out what was happening. The school day ends at 2 pm at 2:23 I received the automated call regarding the lockdown. There is an utter lack of communication between both the sheriffs dept and school board to the parents of any student affected!! Ugh by the time I got that automated call my husband had already called to have me turn on news which none was on so if not for the web I would have been sitting here worried and wondering

    • Nancy N. says:

      I received two different audio messages via email from the district today about the lockdown – one at 9:30am, and another at 4pm. I received one phone call from them at 1pm – assuming that it was the call with the first message. Just deleted it because I’d already gotten the message via email.

      If you want more prompt communication, make sure the district has your email address.

  14. betsy says:

    I am a teacher and a local elementary school and i am VERY upset that all schools were not placed on lockdown b/c of this incident. we need to protect ALL our students.

    If someone is threatening to harm students, teacher, etc….i think that is WAY more than being on lockdown for a precautionary measure! stop giving misinformation to parents….its WRONG!

    This joker better get caught!

  15. Deep South says:

    Man Hunt. Good job and Good luck FCSO.

  16. Maryjoe says:

    Well, good..they got him. Hopefully they can get him the counseling he obviously needs.

  17. janedoe says:

    He wasn’t threatening to kill every kid at MHS he was threaten one person there and the other people he threatened already graduated from MHS but he was referring to them as MHS kids, totally blown out of proportion it was not attack on every student at Matanzas

    • Magnolia says:

      janedoe,

      A death threat is a death threat and I believe a felony. What a waste of a boy’s life.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Even if the threat was only against a single person at MHS, if there was any indication that he intended to attack that person at MHS, the security precautions are appropriate. First, to protect the person who Hofer was after, but second, to protect other people from becoming casualties as bystanders.

  18. b says:

    Yep we also got a call letting us know

  19. Polinasfatt says:

    It was about a drug deal haha, the kid robbed someone at gun point. The girlfriend put this on blast and called him out, then he proceeded to say he was going to shoot her, her boyfriend and 2 others. Girlfriend then told some higher power about it. That’s exactly what happened!

  20. Kaci says:

    This is inaccurate. It defiantly said in his Facebook status, “MHS” not “FPC”. He was going to Matanzas high school to go after the students there. I have the screen shot on my phone.

  21. Jojo says:

    I read Flagler Live sunshine. It’s faster, accurate and no fluff. Some of those dispatchers would eat the face off you, grrrrrrrrrrr

  22. Tired says:

    Janedoe did you read the facebook post? Looked like he WAS threatening every MHS student. I’d prefer that the act with caution rather than take a chance with my childs life. Thank you Flagler County School Administrators and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office!

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes thanks Flagler County Sheriffs Office today and everyday for placing yourselves in potential danger to protect the community from the likes of this person.
      His friend (Harper) for whom he is grieving, was shot and killed while robbing someone in St Augustine. Saw the article in the St Augustine Record.

  23. Barb says:

    @Michelle…what do you thing Fleming should have done differently?

  24. Barb says:

    Good job Fleming and the FCSO!

  25. lisa says:

    I am very greatful its all over and all kids are safe period!!

  26. janedoe says:

    @tired yes i did, I was his “friend” on facebook he wrote at least 5 facebook posts along with 3 pictures of assorted guns, and in one of them he specifically called the 5 people out, he did not want to go after every MHS student just the 5 people who he called out and anyone else who was going to call him out

  27. janedoe says:

    @tired you only saw the one post, if you would have read the others or even remotely knew what the backstory was behind all of this you would know it was not an attack on every student who attend MHS

  28. Ron says:

    Thank you, FCSO, for getting this misfit off the streets so quickly. ^5

  29. FPCmomof2 says:

    My son showed me the screen shot as well it definitely said MHS kids my kids go to FPC but, I was extremely concerned anyway and annoyed to not be notified until school had ended

  30. PCfriend says:

    and to think for every crazy kid like this there’s 2 crazy parents that raised him, You can’t keep blaming the system, I”m thankful we have people still willing to be police officers and teachers

  31. 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!!

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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…

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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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