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Teen facing threat charge

Officials say a former Largo Middle student discussed shooting the school resource officer and blowing things up.

By SHANNON TAN
Published May 14, 2004

LARGO - The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office has formally charged a former Largo Middle student with making a threat in school.

The 14-year-old was charged Tuesday with threatening to discharge a destructive device, a felony, said Joe Walker, assistant state attorney.

On March 11, the boy was talking to a classmate about the Columbine shootings, officials said.

According to officials, the two students then discussed overpowering the school resource officer and shooting him with his own gun.

They also talked about blowing up gas storage tanks near the school, Walker said.

Another student overheard the two boys talking and reported the conversation to a school official the next day.

School officials and Largo police interviewed the students, and the two boys admitted having the conversation. They said it was just idle talk. But authorities took it seriously.

"He crossed the line," Walker said of the teen who was charged.

The two students had talked about asking a third student to help them make the explosives. Police searched the home of the third student, but found nothing. That student was not charged.

The two students were suspended and then reassigned to other schools, said Mike Stephenson, Largo Middle School's school resource officer.

The 14-year-old and his mother will receive a summons to appear in court June 7 for his arraignment, Walker said. There was insufficient evidence to charge the other boy.

The teen faces anything from probation to being committed by the Department of Juvenile Justice, Walker said. He appears to need counseling, he added.

"He told the police he was fascinated by Columbine," Walker said.

"When do you separate "boys talking' vs. the real thing? It's very difficult to make that call," Largo Middle principal William B. Cooper said. "It's always a tough time when we are dealing with kids."

Cooper said the boy who was charged was "a pretty good student."

"You hate to see anything happen to one of our children like this," he said. Still, he said, "Maybe this will result in things being better in the future for him."

Cathy Corry, a Clearwater resident who founded Justice4kids.org to advocate juvenile justice issues, said officials should not have treated the incident as a crime.

"It's the criminalizing of adolescent misdeeds," she said.

But Sherri Miller of Clearwater praised officials for taking the incident seriously.

Her 11-year-old daughter is a sixth-grade student at Largo Middle.

"To think something so scary like that could happen so close to home," Miller said. "I felt they did a great job of going after the boys."

- Shannon Tan can be reached at shtan@sptimes.com or 445-4174.

[Last modified May 14, 2004, 01:01:19]


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