By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Sheriff’s offices in Lee and Hillsborough counties arrested two Florida residents – one aged 10, the other 18 – in two separate incidents involving alleged shooting threats against Florida schools.
On Saturday, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in Southwest Florida announced it had arrested and charged 10-year-old Daniel Issac Marquez with making a written threat to conduct a mass shooting. It posted a video on Facebook of a deputy walking a handcuffed Marquez to a vehicle after his arrest.
The investigation began after the sheriff’s office learned of a threatening text message sent by the boy, who’s a fifth-grade student at Patriot Elementary School in Cape Coral.
“This student’s behavior is sickening, especially after the recent tragedy in Uvalde, Texas,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said in a statement. “Making sure our children are safe is paramount. We will have law and order in our schools! My team didn’t hesitate one second … NOT ONE SECOND, to investigate this threat.”
The School Threat Enforcement Team was immediately notified and began an investigation, the sheriff’s office said. Due to the nature of the incident, it said, the Youth Services Criminal Investigations Division assumed the case.
“Right now is not the time to act like a little delinquent. It’s not funny. This child made a fake threat, and now he’s experiencing real consequences,” Sheriff Marceno added.
On Sunday, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office announced it had arrested and charged an 18-year-old man with a written or electronic threat to conduct a mass shooting or act of terrorism.
After receiving a tip, detectives began an investigation and discovered that Lutz resident Corey Anderson, 18, threatened to shoot a school potentially in his area. He posted images of himself online with what appears to be a handgun, rifle, and tactical style vest along with a caption, “Hey Siri, directions to the nearest school.”
The detectives determined the handgun and rifle were “airsoft guns” or replica toy BB guns that are non-lethal.
“This type of threat is unacceptable. This man intentionally instilled fear into our community as a sick joke, but be warned, this is no laughing matter,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a news release. “We will do everything within our power to apprehend, and pursue charges on those who make school-based threats. Protecting students is our greatest priority.
“We take school threats very seriously, if you see something suspicious, please contact us immediately.”
Mr. Anderson was located and arrested at a residence in Lutz, the sheriff’s office said. He was booked into the county jail and later released on bond, according to jail records.
Sheriff Chronister also posted a PSA on YouTube asking parents “to sit down with your kids about making threats against schools, teachers or other students. Let them know that there are other ways to release their frustration. Even if they don’t mean it, making a threat is serious. They could get arrested and end up with a felony on their record.”
The arrests and investigations in Florida came after an 18-year-old man shot and killed two teachers and 19 children at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
A state and federal investigation is under way into police officers’ response in Uvalde, including officers who reportedly stood in the hallway outside of the classroom while the shooter killed the children inside, and another who handcuffed a mother outside, pinning her to the ground, as parents screamed for police to do something.
The gunman had entered the school unabated and was inside for up to an hour before he was killed by an off-duty Border Patrol agent. But before that, he had been outside the school firing shots for 12 minutes before he ever entered the school, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Chris Olivarez told CNN on May 26 that if police had engaged the gunman they “could have been shot – they could have been killed.”
Children inside had repeatedly called 9-1-1, asking for police to come and save them. They were left inside the classroom with the shooter, who killed them.