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Suspended Student Feared To Have a Weapon at Bunnell Elementary Fence Triggers Alert, and Arrest

| March 7, 2018

Bunnell Elementary is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and is a broad, open campus.

Bunnell Elementary is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and is a broad, open campus.

At 3:20 p.m., 10 minutes before dismissal this afternoon and as many parents had already lined up to pick-up students, Bunnell Elementary School went on a code-yellow alert, requiring all students to be moved indoors and delaying dismissal until 3:50 p.m.

“The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office was called to investigate a suspicious person just off the Bunnell Elementary campus,” a notice posted on the school district’s website at 4:35 p.m. stated.

The incident was more serious than that.

A Bunnell Elementary student had been suspended earlier in the day and was required to leave school. He was spotted after 3 p.m. by students near a school fence (on the sidewalk outside campus) and students reported seeing something that may have been a weapon in his waistband.

That triggered a response by the Sheriff’s Office and the Bunnell Police Department, and the subsequent detention and interview of the expelled student, who was found to have no weapon on him at that point.

There were many rumors and unconfirmed reports that the student had pointed a weapon through the fence—reports Jason Wheeler, the school district’s chief spokesman, categorically denied.

But there’s no question that dispatch reports to first responders were that a weapon may have been involved, and that the weapon, more likely a B.B. gun or an air gun, may have been pointed at children: “Kid is in custody being questioned,” Dan Davis, Bunnell’s city manager, texted city commissioners this evening. “He supposedly was on a bicycle on Magnolia and pointed a BB or pellet gun at another kid on the playground. Being charged with assault.” (The actual charge, according to a release Bunnell police issued through Davis’s office Thursday morning, would be aggravated assault.)

For law enforcement, it was a different case than the recent cases of students triggering investigations because of “jokes” about causing harm, as was the case Tuesday at Matanzas High School and last week at Imagine School at Town Center.

“I know it was a legitimate threat from what I know of the case,” Sheriff Rick Staly said of the Bunnell case in an interview around 6 this evening. But Staly stressed that the Sheriff’s Office was called in only to assist the Bunnell Police Department, and that it was the Bunnell PD’s investigation.  

“They had people that told them they had a weapon, but they don’t have a weapon—they don’t have it in custody, is my understanding,” Staly said. “Our understanding is that a weapon was displayed. I have no information that a weapon was found.”

Asked this evening to confirm whether the suspended student was being charged and whether whatever he displayed was recovered, Davis said: “I’m told he will be charged. Apparently, he said something to indicate he did have an air gun of some sort, but hasn’t said where the gun is, and it has not been recovered yet.” He noted that the 13 year old was still being questioned. That was around 8:15 p.m.

The Bunnell news release issued Thursday morning described the incident in further details regarding the suspected gun: “The victim advised he and other students were on the playground closest to E. Magnolia Street. The victim saw the suspect and another male, only known as Mike, riding their bikes up and down the roadway near the sidewalk. The suspect stopped, pulled a gun out of his pant pocket, and pointed it at him. The victim walked away, told other students, and then told the teachers. The gun was described as a ‘long pistol.'”

As has been the case on at least some previous such alerts around schools, fire-rescue personnel was not dispatched to the scene or to stage near the scene when the alert went out, causing concern among fire-rescue personnel who worry that in case of an actual emergency, every minute’s response time counts. 

Tom Foster, the Bunnell police chief, did not return calls Wednesday evening, but Davis, who’s been forthcoming with information, was relaying information from the police department if not Foster directly.

Dispatch notes indicate that in fact, the first call to 911 about the suspended student came in at 2:56 p.m., or 14 minutes before the Code Yellow was triggered, and that he was riding around the school on a bicycle, though that initial call gave no further description or information. At 3:15 p.m., another call came in to 911, and the caller said the student “may have a gun.”

By then law enforcement was already en route. There was also a description of the boy: white, 75 to 90 pounds, 4’5” to 4’7”. Then 911 started getting calls from others, including family members calling 911, concerned about a lockdown. At 3:31, 911 got information that the student may have gone back to his house. The dispatch center also got reports of a BB gun.

Earl Johnson, the district’s executive director of leadership development and one of the senior administrators in the district who’s also a point person on safety and security, was soon at the school after the Code Yellow was called. He described the incident in an interview this evening: “A male student was suspended from school, after he was suspended from school some of the kids saw him and another student, not a student of Bunnell Elementary, outside of the gate, and the students thought they saw something black in the student’s pants. So that was reported to administration and the administration went to a code yellow.” Law enforcement arrived after that.

The student was not around the campus by the time police arrived, “however they did find the student somewhere in the neighborhood,” Johnson said. “He was detained and questioned. The student did not have anything on him at that time.”

Dispatch notes indicate that a person was detained at 3:45 p.m., and was determined to be the boy in question at 3:48 p.m. Two minutes later, the school lifted the Code Yellow.

The student is well known among faculty and other students because of his lengthy disciplinary history: students who were told of his identity today were not surprised.

Staly said Wednesday’s incident is the 22nd reported school threat that the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has investigated since Feb. 15, a day after the Parkland school massacre. He will be speaking about that in more detail Thursday.

Superintendent James Tager, School Board Chairman Trevor Tucker, Johnson and Staly, among others, are scheduled to appear in a joint news conference on school security at Buddy Taylor Middle School Thursday at 11 a.m. The news conference was scheduled well before today’s incident and is intended to disclose some of the school board’s aims following a closed-door school board meeting on school security Tuesday. 


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29 Responses for “Suspended Student Feared To Have a Weapon at Bunnell Elementary Fence Triggers Alert, and Arrest”

  1. Jenn says:

    I want to know where the parents of these young children are? Are they the least bit concerned about their children? It appears to me that they’re not. They need to be active in their child’s life this is getting ridiculous now but I’m glad the police did what they had to do to ensure everybody would be safe. These kids need to focus on learning and stop being copycats

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree!!

  3. Parent of Student says:

    Thank God no one was hurt in this incident! I feel that Bunnell Police Department needs to act a little more concerned in this type of situation according to what this article claims! I am EXTREMELY familiar with what occurred and for them to try and brush this off as nothing in their statements is absurd! Also, why is our county dispatch not staging medical in a situation like this? I feel as though it was just brushed off as a “whatever” situation by several entities involved! At least from reading this article…

    People need to stop having the “it won’t happen here” mentality and start treating things of this nature SERIOUS every time. No one was hurt and it ended up being nothing, THIS TIME! Remember the suspect in Parkland had several run ins with law enforcement before something tragic happened, let’s not let our county be the next media showcase! Be proactive here!

    At the time of the incident, my mother, my wife, my son and my daughter all happened to be at that school. God forbid this kid started shooting and med staff was not staged, SECONDS SAVE LIVES. This has been proven time and time again. Let’s learn from the errors that were made here, train the proper employees in the proper procedures and be ready in case the terrible act of violence enters our county! Be ready to act and do so in a way that minimizes the heartache as much as possible.

    I will say KUDOS to the responding personnel that arrived on scene and deescalated the situation quick to give everyone piece of mind that all was okay.

  4. Bull pup mom says:

    So it happened, my worst fear came true today. Even though everything turned out ok, it was a horrendous situation. As a parent I felt helpless we had no idea what was going on with our children. We had no way to help them or know what was going on. We didn’t receive a phone call until 4. I was hysterically crying, my poor babies!!!! This boy along with the one from Matanzas yesterday need to have charges pressed against them and be made examples of!! Charge the parents too! Maybe they will finally give a DAMN! If a child is suspended from school why isn’t he locked up at home And punished by his parents instead of out on a bike riding around with a gun In his pocket! The schools KNOW who the problem kids are and need to start doing something about it! Make sure you all go out to the board meeting tomorrow at 3pm! I don’t want us to become another statistic, the PC Cyktire stops now before it is too late!

  5. Layla says:

    Jenn, excellent comments. I wonder how many parents are so busy making a living they don’t even know about the shooting in S. Florida. The children are very upset right now and they should be. Do we still have discipline of any sort or have the courts outlawed it all? Serious question. Just about every method of punishment is now child abuse, according to the courts.

    Where is the sanity here? Children must have structure, love and security. We are not supplying it. We are making excuses. None of this has anything to do with guns. It’s us. All of us.

  6. MannyHMo says:

    The home of this student should be searched and that’s the minimum. He should be under surveillance and be personally search unannounced and at random. Be proactive to be ahead of this deadly game.

  7. Donald Mitchell says:

    At 3:50 pm this afternoon began to worry as my children were not in the pickup area. Suspicious of like circumstances I called the school to find out what was going on. I was told by the office staff that the school was on code yellow lock down due to a suspicious person outside of the school. I asked for more information and was denied. I feel as though, as a parent, I should have been made aware of the situation at hand and do not believe that this was handled as a serious threat by the school or the Bunnell police department. I was informed by law enforcement that the young man had made threats on social media about shooting people the day prior to today. If that is the case, why weren’t parents notified of such threats? This is a matter which cannot be taken lightly. Children are getting shot at school and more should be done to secure our children’s safety. Likewise, parents should put their phones down and start being parents! Get involved!

  8. Dave says:

    So a kid was on a bike, no weapon found, why was he arrested AND SO IT CONTINUES, they are destroying our children’s lives now, what is really going on

  9. Jenn says:

    I agree medical should be close to scene on standby

  10. Always Something says:

    I also find it disturbing that the original call came in at 2:56 and the reports say at 3:15 law enforcenment was on their way….20 minutes to respond to a school with a possible weapons issue….???? I would have hoped for better urgency to the situation

  11. Terry says:

    My grandson is a student in class with the suspended student. He had a nightmare the other night that this might happen at his school. Needless to say he is scared after this incident. I know the authorities will take this and address it properly but let’s remember the children and how they are feeling. I know my grandson does not feel safe. Thankful that they are on holiday next week and hopefully he can put this out of his mind for a while.
    Very concerned grandmother.

  12. Clasic says:

    @ Dave; It appears to me this student is “destroying his own life” by getting suspended in the first place. Make good choices or take responsibility. You have to be doing some pretty bad stuff in elementary school to get suspended in the first place!

  13. Born and Raised Here says:

    Why was this student not placed in the custody of his parents when he was suspended?

  14. Born and Raised Here says:

    Why wasn’t this student placed in the custody of his parents, when he was suspended?

  15. Born and Raised Here says:

    Why wasn’t the suspendended student placed in the custody of his parents ?

  16. Dave says:

    Oh sure Classic , a kid that age is really responsible for ruining their own life, do people actually believe this? The kid needs some help, not a criminal record

  17. Danna says:

    Its sad that this same kid went to the school with a knife and nothing was done about it. He had threatened 4 kids with it. Maybe something should of been done then and this wouldnt of happened. My son wouldn’t go to school today because of this.

  18. Just Another Parent says:

    @Dave you seem to comment a lot on how it’s always the poor kid and everyone else is destroying their life, sounds like you are just another person that is clueless and part of the continued problem. Maybe stop pointing the finger and playing the blame game for a minute and realize that this child is old enough to know right from wrong and there are consequences for his actions. These kids are not stupid and know damn well what is going on now a days yet they still choose to make threats and act like fools because people like you want to feel sorry for them, do you feel bad for all the other kids that are traumatized and scared because kids like this are making these choices? Do you feel bad for all of the Parents that are scared of what could have happened? Would you be singing a different tune if this boy did have a deadly weapon and injured or killed others? Of course you would still point the fingers at everyone else and make excuses for him just as you are blaming everyone for destroying these kids lives now. This is no longer a joking matter, this is no longer being brushed aside with these kids anymore. The Sheriff’s Department is enforcing consequences along with the School because the supposed “Parents” are not. There are only a few people at fault in this situation: The Mother, The Father and The Child. The lack of Parenting is evident given this boys habitual disciplinary record, the fact he was suspended from school due to his behavior and yet he is out riding his bicycle, using a cell phone or other gadgets and no adult supervision. People are making babies and providing however they are not RAISING their offspring. Parents need to learn how to be PARENTS again! It STARTS AT HOME!!!

  19. Just Another Parent says:

    I agree with you Dave, this kid does need help because he isn’t getting it from his parents. Maybe the School, Law Enforcement and DCF should look into his home life, look into his parents because like I said it is evident there is a lack of parenting going on in that home. A parent would not allow their suspended child to be running the streets, using any type of phones or gadgets, they would be grounded, under adult supervision at all times and made to do chores or some type of community service until they were allowed back in school and once back in school would still have no privileges until they proved them self capable of being a good student and peer. Maybe when these kids get arrested for this type of behavior the Parent should have a consequence as well so that they too would be accountable for their negligence that lead up to this occurrence. If it is a habitual problem then maybe the child should be removed from the supposed “Parents” care because they have proven to continue to neglect the child’s needs and proven to be unfit. Maybe as a community we ought to work together with the schools to compile a list of kids that are habitually disciplined in school and start a mandatory program to intervene with these kids and get them on the right track. Have mentors, role models, parents, community leaders work with these kids and teach them better before they make choices that will destroy their lives.

  20. Brian Smith says:

    That is it, we need to bulldoze every school and make it 100% homeschooling. We can save a fortune on taxes maintaining these schools, security and end all these attacks.

  21. Layla says:

    The Florida Senate passed a gun ban and new rules yesterday. Meanwhile, we still have no idea why the local, state and federal efforts ALL failed at Parkland. Nothing here has really been fixed at all. And the citizens are expected to give up these rights? These children are having nightmares because they know they are not safe.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Having just heard who the kid was….NOT surprised. Had experiences with him on more than one level.

  23. Kamamani says:

    This kid was no stranger to discipline issues and no one was surprised that he threatened other students with a gun (be it an air gun or not). This sounds exactly like the kid in Parkland! If a student is suspended or expelled for any reason that involves violence of any kind then we should look at temporarily removing weapons from their home until a psychiatric evaluation can be done to determine if they are a threat. Once the child is cleared by a licensed mental health professional then the family can get their weapons back. I support the second amendment 100%, but it is situations like this that cause people to talk about taking everyone’s guns away. Take them away from thebpeople that we know are potential threats….that includes all students who are suspended or expelled for any reason involving violence..

  24. Julien says:

    This kid was going to almost shoot a 6th grader well that’s not good luckily he was sent to jail he had an health issue I dont know what it’s called it means something that you don’t know what your doing

  25. Jay says:

    This child does not have the best parents around imo and I was at the school while the code yellow was in effect! The school gave me ridiculous answers as to what happened today stating that there was an error the first go around when Mr.SanFillipo used skyward and that was only one of the reasons there was a delay in notifying parents. I actually contacted people 15 min. prior to them contacting parents and also had a Facebook post up where people had absolutely no clue as to what was happening! Failures all around as far as I’m concerned

  26. bob says:

    satan is running the schools he has the whole world in a dissaray jesus christ and the bible
    is our only medicine not this wicked rap music, rock music, hip hop music leading
    the culture to hell. jesus saves repent acts4-12, john3-3.

  27. Iva Had it says:

    Brian Smith, get real. “100% homeschooling” = mass ignorance.

  28. BLACK nation says:

    Why do y’all white baby’s always grow up so EVIL? Can some explain that?

  29. bruce says:

    Yes with younger children it all starts your upbrining but it goes deeper then that, Think about this it comes down to two parts. its actually the government of law makers, a minor steals a car or breaks into house or even worse the police office who puts his life on the line does his job, the court system does there job but because the way the laws are written go after the politicans. who wrote the laws that the judge has to go by.

    in palm coast the c section a 16 year did a car theft went to court and is walking the street
    in Holly Hill a 10 year did the same thing and is walking the street he did it 3 times
    when you think about nj the first school murders you had a child 17 who was exposed to weapons
    welll the Mom is dead, the father knew of his son conditions and should not have let him been exposed to weapons.
    i grew up in bklyn beneshurst which was basically a jewish italian area you feared the partrol of the parents more then the police.
    Get better laws about punishment for crimes being performed a 10 year steals a car i dont care who pays for the crime committed Its not the police its not the judges its the politicans that allow these laws to be written to protect minors. If they commitment a crime they need to be punished for it.

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