PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A 12-year-old boy has been arrested in connection with the Pasco County clown threats. The boy is charged with terroristic threatening, a second-degree felony.
Deputies said the arrest is “regarding an online threat made toward Seven Springs Middle School with an image of a clown.”
The arrested child threatened to kill children, officials said. The threat was posted on the app, musical.ly. The profile’s main image is a clown. Deputies learned of the threat Monday night.
It read: “hello. I am going to kill kids at SEVEN SPRINGS MIDDLE SCHOOL on Friday the 7th of October 2016. GET READY 6th graders for your worst day and your last!!”
“The fear is not going to be tolerated in this county. And so a child has been arrested today and a warning is still going out there. If anybody wants to go down this path … threaten to kill kids … threaten to shoot up a school … threaten to shoot up anywhere … the Pasco Sheriff’s Office has zero tolerance,” Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
“If you threaten people in our community that line in the sand is drawn,” the sheriff added.
The 12-year-old boy told officers he made the threat to be funny.
“Choices have consequences. It starts as something small maybe between a group of friends but this, with social media, it spreads. He sounds a little remorseful for it now,” Detective Benjamin Beson said.
Additional officers were on campus the Seven Springs campus Tuesday. “We have to take everyone serious. We don’t know which one, if there’s an actual credible threat in this, so you have to take every one serious,” Beson said.
While this post didn’t turn out to be anything dangerous, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office wants students and parents to be on high alert. “Save any type of evidence. Don’t dispose of any messages and contact the sheriff’s office right away so we can find out who is doing this,” Beson explained.
Investigators talked with parents and students Tuesday and assured them they’re taking these threats seriously.
Parents told News Channel 8 the news was scary. “Oh my gosh,” Stamie Carter said. “It scared the heck out of me.”
Carter saw the social media profile and immediately started notifying other parents. She also alerted the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
“We take care of business,” Carter told News Channel 8. “We’re not messing around. These are our babies. We’re not messing around … It’s an example for everybody else.”
News Channel 8 spoke with a group of students, including some sixth graders, who were written about in the profile.
“It scared me because I thought it was real, too,” Jeyla Miller said.
“It was really scary thinking that someone threatened to kill everybody,” Nina Provatas added. “That was really stupid, and it was ridiculous how he thought it would be funny.”
In addition to this arrest, clown sightings have occurred in Hudson, Port Richey and Holiday. Nocco says his deputies are taking the reports very seriously.
Deputies say the subjects also create Facebook profiles and request teenage users as friends. In one post, a clown requested that a juvenile met him at a park at night, according to PCSO.
Nocco says he wants people to report any suspicious activity because some of the clown reports have included threats. Subjects dressed as clowns are associating themselves with “evil, murder, rape and violent acts,” according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
“If something is going on out there and you see something, where there is people dressed up like clowns, you’re fearful or you think criminal activity is going on, please notify us immediately. We’re going to go out there,” said Nocco, who also reminded citizens people who file false reports will be charged.
The threats were made through social media by someone with a clown photo for his or her profile image. They target students who attend Martinez Middle School in Lutz. News Channel 8 obtained images from Instagram.