Raquelle S. Shavers, the 23-year-old woman at the center of an incident at Bunnell Elementary School last week where she was alleged to threaten to burn down the school, faces a felony charge of threatening to discharge a destructive device, though initially police and school authorities had agreed to limit any consequences to a verbal warning, though the approach seemed to contrast with numerous similar incidents involving young children making threats over the past year, but facing immediate felony charges and, usually, arrest.
Shavers was not arrested. The charge was forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office, where prosecutors will decide whether to file the charge or dismiss it. In an odd twist, the sheriff’s office is also asking the State Attorney’s Office to examine the incident in light of the state’s hate-crime law, implying that Shavers’s accusations of the school being racist combined with her alleged threat was, somehow, potentially a hate crime.
Shavers faced battery and disorderly conduct charges in 2014. The charges were dropped. She faced a battery and trespassing charges two years later and signed a deferred prosecution agreement, completing its conditions in exchange for the charges being dropped.
The incident at the school took place on Nov. 6. Principal Marcus Sanfilippo told the school resource deputy, Nancy Malheiros, that a disgruntled Shavers, a parent and a member of the school’s community, allegedly made a threatening comment: “I’m going to burn this place up” as she was walking out of the school that day. A parent waiting outside heard this statement and notified the school staff, in accordance with the district’s and sheriff’s “see something, say something” campaign focused on school safety. By the time the deputy was notified, both Shavers and the witness had left the school.
Flagler County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Ragazzo, who supervises school deputies, and a Bunnell police officer went to Shavers’s home on Chapel Street in Bunnell to interview her. She was not there in person. They spoke to her by phone, according to a sheriff’s incident report. Shavers, according to the report, said she was angry, alleging racism at the school, but said she had not made the threatening statement. The school declined to trespass Shavers.
The next day, Sanfillippo convened a threat assessment regarding the matter. The threat assessment team is a trained group of school administrators, usually including a psychologist or counselor, and the school resource deputy, who analyze all serious security threats and weigh the sort of approach to take, if any. It’s a way of filtering out transient, vague and unspecified threats from more serious threats. The threat assessment team’s approach differs from that of law enforcement, where a zero-tolerance approach tends to prevail in such circumstances.
The team called Shavers. She told the team she was “extremely angry due to the fact that she waited about 20 minutes for her child and feels the school is racist,” the report states. She acknowledged making the statement about the school’s racism but again said she had not made any threats, nor would ever make such threats since she has two children and nephews who go to school there.
The witness’ statement describes things differently, and that Shavers’s reaction took place in front of the witness’ young child: “A lady with her young son were exiting the front doors of Bunnell Elementary School yelling, ‘Fuck You!’ to the front office staff. As she walked towards an awaiting car she continued to yell, ‘fuck this school, Imma going to burn it up!’ Everyone here is white, this place is racist.’ Her tone and actions were very threatening and I felt very uncomfortable and scared. My 8 year old daughter was also very fearful and upset as this was her school.”
After the threat assessment, the team, in consultation with the sheriff’s deputy, “decided that they were comfortable with giving [Shavers] a verbal warning and do not wish to trespass her at this time,” according to the incident report. “Due to conflicting statements no charges will be filed… Nothing further to report at this time.”
But it was not the end of it. On Wednesday morning, a sheriff’s chief was asked about the difference in treatment between the Shavers case and other similar cases that resulted in relatively swift arrest. Mid-afternoon on Thursday, the sheriff’s office produced a charging affidavit for Shavers, dated Nov. 8. The affidavit repeats the narrative of the incident report but lists the felony charge of threatening to discharge a destructive device, and adds the following: “further request for State [Attorney’s Office] to review [Florida’s hate crime law] evidencing prejudice while committing offense.” The affidavit states a “reclassification” of the charge could be aggravated “due to the witness statement of ‘Everyone here is white, this place is racist.'” The statement, the affidavit reads, “was made after the defendant claimed she was going to burn the school up.”