A pair of Franklin County 13-year-old boys is sitting in a Department for Juvenile Justice. detention center in Tallahassee following their Thursday afternoon arrest on charges of displaying over social media a handgun that turned out to be stolen.
Christine Thompson, public information officer for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, said the two juveniles, one who attended the Franklin County Schools’ alternative school, and the other the Apalachicola Bay Charter School were using SnapChat to share a photo of them showing off the firearm. She said they also were smoking an unknown substance.
Thompson said the handgun had been reported stolen out of Panama City, and for that the boys were arrested for dealing in stolen property, which in the case of adults, is a second degree felony, with penalties that include up to 15 years in prison.
The two were each arrested on two weapons charges, one for a possession of a firearm unlawfully by a minor, and the other for improper exhibit of a firearm, a first degree misdemeanor committed by anyone who "in the presence of one or more persons, (exhibits a weapon) in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner, not in necessary self-defense."
The boys, inside of a home, shared pictures and comments through SnapChat, which has as wide an outreach as the sharers have followers. One of those who viewed the picture and comments then made law enforcement aware, and the case was investigated by Major Cliff Carroll.
"Even though this incident was not on school grounds, with school starting on Monday, this social media incident was taken extremely seriously," said a release from the sheriff’s office. "Sheriff Smith is adamant about protecting our children and keeping them safe. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office places the highest priority on the safety of our children and community."
With training from former Franklin County Schools administrator Al London, a retired law enforcement officer with weapons training experience, and Simon Dixon, three participants graduated this week from 132 hours of intensive training to enable them to take part in the Guardian program, which enables a district employee to be armed while on the job.
These three individuals will be part of the school safety program at the Franklin County Schools, which includes two school resource officers, Brock Johnson and Kristen Miller, overseen by Lt. Gary Martina. Rob Wheetley serves as the district’s safety specialist. Stella Bryant is the SRO at the ABC School.
Superintendent Traci Moses said the matter will be reviewed by ABC School’s board, which could recommend dismissal of their student, in which case the matter will join the other in coming before the district school board. "If it’s a weapon, it’s highly unlikely they would be on any school campus," she said.
She said those who reported the matter did the right thing, in keeping with the "see something, say something" theme promoted to students.
"With anonymous reporting, we want to encourage the students to notify a potential threat," she said.
Moses said the tip line has been used, particularly to prevent fights. "Kids are more likely to report; they trust teachers and staff at schools. Kids have come forward; it’s very important to report any concern that may involve safety."