A 15-year-old Palm Coast High School student is the latest in a lengthening list of high school, middle school and elementary school students to be arrested so far this year for allegedly making threats to shoot other students. In most cases, the arrests followed idle and usually unserious threats spoken in careless jest and no intention or capability of being carried out. The 15-year-old boy’s threat on Tuesday may have been idle but it was spoken in all seriousness, and with a challenge to meet after school where the threat could allegedly be carried out.
Certainly, some of the students who overheard it took it seriously enough to be in fear, and in tears. The alleged threat had been uttered during lunch around picnic tables. One of the emotionally distraught witnesses told a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy she’d been at one of the tables when she heard a boy mention “something about a gun,” and did not like the sound of the situation.
Based on the boy’s arrest report, which includes accounts from several witnesses, including the 15 year old, the incident resulted from a turf issue over a picnic table. A group of students used to claiming one of those tables did what it usually does at lunch. The students dropped their bags, then went to the cafeteria to get their lunch. When they returned, five boys were sitting at the table they’d claimed. They were asked to leave, or get another table. They refused. Words were exchanged on both sides.
According to one of the witnesses, the 15 year old said he was going to “shoot them up,” and provided the students with an address. The student took the 15 year old’s threat as a serious one, and told a deputy he believed the boy would carry it out if he had a gun. Some of the witnesses said they attempted to de-escalate the situation.
The 15 year old agreed to speak with law enforcement, corroborating much of the story: he said the other group of students approached him and started cussing at him, so he told one of the students that if he wanted to fight, they could meet after school at a specific place, “because he would not fight during school hours,” according to the report. The student was asked if he’d spoken of shooting up other students, or if he’d mentioned anything about a shooting. In both instances, the student said he did not recall–an answer often heard in court when a witness may know the answer but either does not want to incriminate or perjure himself or herself. The statement, at any rate, had been heard from several others.
Just two weeks ago, Marion Gavins Jr., now 18, was sentenced to 45 years in prison after fatally shooting 17-year-old Curtis Gray, an FPC student, in April 2019 in what appeared to have been a feud over that had festered on social media.
The boy was placed under arrest at 3:23 p.m–by which time school had dismissed–and taken to the Flagler County jail to be booked under a charge of making threats to discharge a weapon, a second-degree felony.
“Words have consequences and behavior like this is not acceptable, especially in our schools,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “I am once again asking parents to be the Sheriff of your home and help us prevent this. Talk to your kids about the seriousness of making threats and to choose their words carefully, as words have consequences under the law. Also, teach them the proper way to handle arguments and making threats to do violence or planning a fight is not the solution. It takes a much bigger person to walk away and de-escalate the situation than to fight over something as stupid as a picnic table. I’m proud of the students that reported the threats and then de-escalated the situation. They did it right.”