‘1,000 person body count’: Students say Lakeland teacher made concerning comments during drill

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A high school math teacher is on administrative leave after students say he told them how he would commit a mass murder at a school during a lockdown drill last week.

A judge issued a risk protection order against the teacher, Keith Cook.

“Without care or treatment (redacted) can or could cause serious bodily harm to others in the near future,” Lakeland Police wrote in the risk protection order request.

Sixteen students told police Cook, who is a former United States Marine, discussed how using a bomb at a school would create more casualties.

“He said he would have a 1,000 person body count and be a hero,” one student said.

A student told his or her parent who reported it to a guidance counselor.

“It really upset her because everything that’s going on with the schools and stuff. He wasn’t thinking. He just didn’t think,” said Evelyn Haynes, whose granddaughter was in the classroom.

“With everything that’s happening, you leave them kind of jokes alone. You don’t joke like that because people are taking that kind of thing seriously,” said Lakeland’s Betty Ferguson while picking up a child at Lakeland High School.

In a statement, Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said the district is cooperating fully with the law enforcement investigation.

“Parents and students should be assured that we take any potential threat against our students and schools seriously. Student safety is — and always will be — paramount within our school district,” she wrote.

Polk County Public Schools declined 8 On Your Side’s request for an interview due to the ongoing investigation.

8 On Your Side’s email to Mr. Cook has gone unanswered.

Cook told police the comments were “done jokingly,” according to the RPO request.

“I asked why in the world would he want a school shooter to do a better job. He shook his head and said that he in fact would not want that now,” Detective Justin Conatser wrote in the request.

Cook has been a teacher in the Polk County system since 2008.


Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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