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Man Who Tried to Get Into Wadsworth Elementary and Referred to a School Shooting Is Identified

| November 30, 2018

Stills from surveillance video of the unidentified man at Wadsworth Elementary this morning, and of his vehicle.

Stills from surveillance video of the unidentified man at Wadsworth Elementary this morning, and of his vehicle.

Last Updated: Friday, 7:55 p.m.

Sheriff’s deputies identified, located and interviewed the man who sought entry into Wadsworth Elementary and made a reference to a school shooting Thursday morning, raising suspicion and triggering a search for him by Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies. He is Ronnie Niemela of Palm Coast.

Niemela is not a threat, deputies have determined. “There are no criminal charges and no suspicious activity to report,” a sheriff’s spokesperson said. late this afternoon.


The Sheriff’s Office said he was in his early 70s.

Deputy Jay Rodenborn was able to identify him through Niemela’s vehicle. Deputies found him at his Palm Coast home, where he was cooperative, a sheriff’s spokesperson said, granting deputies entry into his home. The sheriff’s Sgt. Phil Reynolds interviewed him. “They’ve determined he’s not a threat,” the spokesperson said. The spokesperson described the man as “disgruntled” for having had to show his ID at the Wadsworth Elementary lobby. He’d been seeking to go to the school’s book fair. It’s not clear if he didn’t have ID on him or simply didn’t feel he should have to show it to get into a school–as men and women from that generation never had to.

“He told deputies he’ll be moving in the next two weeks,” the spokesperson said.

“We take the safety of our children in Flagler County very seriously, especially in our schools,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in a release issued this evening. “I am very proud of the investigative work done by Deputy Rodenborn and the rest of our
team to identify this guy. I also want to thank everyone who shared our Facebook post and sent us tips. Unfortunately, in this day and age we have to follow every single lead because you can never be certain of a person’s intentions. Make no mistake, if you make an inappropriate comment or a threat in Flagler County you will receive a visit from the Sheriff’s Office.”

Tips may be submitted to the Sheriff’s Office at TIPS@FlaglerSheriff.com.

The previous story is below.

Sheriff Seeks ID of Man Who Tried to Get Into Wadsworth Elementary–and Referred to a School Shooting

Nov. 29–The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s help in identifying a man who sought entry at Wadsworth Elementary this morning, refused to provide ID and left–but not before making an oblique reference to a school shooting.

The man walked up to the front desk at Wadsworth Elementary At 11:15 this morning and asked where the school’s book fair was.

Wadsworth is holding a book fair all week. It open to the public: “The best gift to give is the gift of reading!!!,” the school’s website advertises. “Wadsworth’s Book Fair will be in The Preserve (Media Center). Come in to do some Holiday Shopping!!”

There were also book-fair signs at the front entrance of the school, visible from Belle Terre Parkway. Corie Archambault at the front desk explained to the man that the fair was in the media center, but that he’d have to present ID to get in. That’s the protocol in every district school.

“I was informed that the male was giving her a hard time and kept asking her why he had to show ID,” Erik Pedersen, Wadsworth’s school resource deputy, reported. “Corie advised the male kept asking about the security measures of the school and asked, ‘When was the last time the school has been shot up?'”

That got Archambault nervous, according to a sheriff’s incident report, though it appears the statement was made carelessly in and jest. “Why, do you have a gun and do I need to frisk you down?” she asked him.

The man then left through the front door. The school resource deputy was able to observe that he was in a black Range Rover. The deputy reviewed the video footage and captured screen shots of the man and the vehicle, emailing the images to the sheriff’s office and triggering an “attempt to identify.” The deputy also emailed the images to the dozen other school resource deputies in the district.

“At this time it’s unknown if he has a child that attends [Wadsworth] but he made no comment that he does,” Pedersen reported. (He made no comment that he does not, either, though the sheriff’s office facebook page this evening, in its attempt-to-identify notice, stated categorically that “he has no children who attend the school and is not employed there.”)

Wadsworth's Book Fair flier, advertised on its website.

Wadsworth’s Book Fair flier, advertised on its website.

The man is described as white, in his early to mid-60s weighing approximately 200 to 215 pounds. He was wearing a baseball cap, and had gray-silver hair. He stood about 5’9.5”.

“It should be noted at no time did he mention that he had a weapon or any intent that he was going to use one,” Pedersen’s report concludes.

The sheriff’s posting on Facebook generated concern among readers. “My granddaughter goes there and FCSO that is all you’re going to say?” one reader asked. “Why was he there? What was his reasoning? What was his excuse? Was the Sheriff officer there? So many unanswered questions, and no parents informed. Unacceptable.” On the other hand, readers also said that the man was properly turned away.

“What security we had in place worked,” Jason Wheeler, the district’s spokesman, said this evening. “This person who to the best of my knowledge didn’t have any business with the school, went through the security protocols, declined to take part in the protocols and was turned away.”

The Facebook posting did not mention that the man had asked about the publicly advertised book fair–or made the reference to a shooting.

Sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge explained the ongoing attempt to identify, particularly with the man’s reference to a school shooting–even if it were not maliciously intended: “That is extremely odd behavior,” Strobridge said, “and if we’re able to identify and find out who we’re dealing with and can do some background on it, we can determine if possibly this person has some kind of grudge or something like that. Here’s the problem: If he returned next week to the school with a weapon and said something, and we had this information and did nothing about it, then we’d have missed an opportunity to save lives. Our children’s protection is priority one for us.”

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20 Responses for “Man Who Tried to Get Into Wadsworth Elementary and Referred to a School Shooting Is Identified”

  1. ASF says:

    Somebody has to know who this guy is. I hope they come forward with the information.

  2. Annoyed Mom says:

    Those pictures are unidentifiable. In this day and age they should be much clearer and you should be able to identify who that person is he’s in front of the woman at the front desk. It’s unbelievable he got into that school as far as he did and no one arrested him. Where was the resource officer where’s the panic button for the front desk person where’s the Flagler County Sheriff’s Department. Thank God my kids are out of the school district

  3. Carol L Pagliuca says:

    So if this guy wouldn’t show ID, how do they know he doesn’t have a child/grandchild that attends the school? Not much info to go on except his pic and the pic of the vehicle he was in. This is very concerning

  4. Really says:

    Truly are some idiots in the World

  5. Sleepless in Palm Coast says:

    Get a security booth asap.The fact that he was able to get into the building is scary. This is a security wake up call.

  6. Florida voter says:

    @Annoyed Mom:
    I absolutely agree regarding the quality of the photo.

    FYI: 1 minute of hi-def (1008p) video takes about 180MB, so 1 full day’s worth is about 260GB. Get a TB of storage and you can hold a few days of video. Easy to do for $2000, but how much did the school district contract for that “Big Brother” service that will (most likely not) alert us to suspicious social media posts?

  7. Agkistrodon says:

    You can make all the rules ans laws you like, but if UNAUTHORIZED people can get inside ANY school building, you will NEVER have security.

  8. Southboundsoon says:

    The poor quality of the pictures is in-excusable. This looks more like a big foot sighting than a proper security system at a public school.

  9. Kate l says:

    Get rid of open door Book Fairs. Place at County Library only. Not in schools.Not worth the Risk.

  10. Flager parent says:

    There is a security wall. This man was not in the actual school he was in the front door but then you have to be buzzed past the wall.

  11. Huggy Bear says:

    I’m surprised that old timer got that far. I tried to tour Bunnell Elementary a few years back as I was a student there many moons ago and I was flat out denied by this woman who claimed to be the principal. She was wearing fruit of the loom sweat pants and a sweatshirt like Rocky Balboa. Anyways, she treated me like a scumbag and I was disgruntled. I had proper identification from the state and the D.o.D. Yet she ordered me to vacate or else she would get the law involved. I couldn’t believe the treatment I was getting so I can see how this fella would have been a little pissed off too. They treat anyone who rolls up to the front office like they are child molesters. Needless to say I never got my tour and this man didn’t get to browse the book fair.

  12. palmcoaster says:

    Kudos to the Excellent work of our Flagler county sheriff deputy. I know is hard for us vintage Americans to adhere to all the security rules and almost invasive check ups that we have to endure in a daily bases given the new rules imposed to keep us all and specially our students safe, given the tragic incidents taking place in the last decades.
    I bet when our school paid for this security cameras system didn’t get the quality one needed that they probably they paid for. Sounds to me like the emergency communications system that the county got 10 years ago for a couple of millions that was to last 15 years and broke down at eight with no way to repair as was face out. Who is the moron in the purchase department in charge to spec and get bids for these systems? Wonder the little fortune school board approved to pay for that cheap cameras system. Are the public funds squandered by paying for a Cadillac and getting a lemon by hidden grease agenda’s? Public work or suppliers contracts are diminished in quality from what is paid for to what is delivered and we all know well what the reasons are. Shameful practices that have to end and this is when I totally agree if our elected one’s will get more involved and micromanage a little into the activities of county, schools and city failing administrators. Our elected one’s are also the guardians of our public funds and as such better keep the guard. Les consent agendas and more oversight. Just like new elected city council Colonel Jack Howell promised to do. Also I agree that there is a risk to open our schools to book fairs in these tragic times we endure.

  13. ASF says:

    This gentlemen most probably knew full well that schools require checks of all outsiders who enter school grounds. You would have to live in cave to not know why such precaution is necessary. This man simply was disgruntled because he felt inconvenienced and believed he was entitled to special treatment. Furthermore, why would he be buying books if he was going to be moving in two weeks? That would only give him more to pack. He flew off the handle at the school and succeeded in blowing off the police when he was caught and was afraid of being made accountable for his bad behavior.

  14. Percy's mother says:

    Dear ASF

    One usually buys books to READ, regardless of location.

    Just because the man stated he was moving in 2 weeks doesn’t mean he couldn’t have take a couple of newly purchased books with him.

    How much packing does a couple of books take? Time to put on our thinking caps people.

  15. Guest says:

    How come its ok for him to mention school shooting? Why was he let go by the sheriffs office? You say bomb on the airplaine and you’re done! But here-nothing! I dont care if he was inconvinienced or old, he has no business in that school and he should be held accountable for his words.

  16. Monica Campana says:

    Disgruntedly ran over 60 book fairs in a career as a school library media specialist. Hated every minute of the organizational time it took away from students and teachers. Grudgingly held them twice a year. Why? The funding for purchase of library books was nowhere near the amount needed to maintain the basic level of service determined by national accreditation standards. Glad the safety system worked despite flaws. But wondering why we are so unwilling to fund the future. Also wondering why someone hasn’t sued for inequitable funding as schools in wealthy communities generate thousands of dollars in fundraisers and low income schools cancel book fairs because closing the library for a week to generate a hundred dollars isn’t worth it.

  17. HonkeyDude says:

    I wonder how many people with black range rovers were harassed after this article/incident? People were lucky it was a uncommon vehicle. How would people be reacting differently if their soccer mom vehicle matched the description and they were getting stopped?

  18. T.J. says:

    @Annoyed Mom I hope you realize that he only made it to the front desk, which is the second line of defense, after the gate. Though that school doesn’t have a perimeter fence the front desk person has to flip a switch to open the door and all exterior doors are locked on that campus. The fence also protects the multi-purpose room, the kickball field, and the two little playgrounds on the north side. He didn’t make it far at all, he never even made it close to students.

  19. Bill says:

    Glad they talked to him and see he not a threat. Was his words ‘When was the last time the school has been shot up?’” a threat or just an old man who doesnt keep up on how things have changed for the worst in todays society? I f that what he said it was not a threat but a out of touch question. Yes our law enforcement should look into any such things in todays world. The big Question is WHY have such in todays world during school hours open to the general public???

  20. ASF says:

    @Percy’smother says–Its time for ME and others criticizing the stupid behavior of this dude to put “OUR thinking caps on?’ That’s a pretty clueless comment in and of itself. You really have to go wayyy out of your way not to get the point to make that kind of comment–or perhaps you are weakly trying to defend this particularly entitled character because you feel similarly entitled.

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