Police: PSL teen arrested for ‘hit list’ threat to classmates

A Port St. Lucie teen has been arrested after police say he compiled an 18-name  “hit list” of students and staff at his high school and told classmates he intended to shoot the people on it, authorities reported Monday.

The 14-year-old, whose name was withheld by authorities because he is a minor,  attends Somerset College Preparatory Academy, a charter school, and now faces a felony charge for the written threat, according to reports released by Port St. Lucie Police spokesman Sgt. Frank Sabol.

The teen was taken into custody Friday, three days after the school police officer was tipped to the list by another student, according to the arrest report.

That tip sent the investigator and school staff sorting through the garbage where classmates said the 14-year-old tossed the ripped page after telling them it was a list of people he was going to kill, the report said.

They found a lot of little pieces and eventually reconstructed a list that named not only students, but also the principal, the school police officer and other staff, the report said.

When interviewed the teen referred to the paper as his “Hit List”, but said it was  a joke. According to the police report, he said “the names on the list were his friends and he didn’t mean it.”

Investigators said the paper held more than a list, however.

The paper also had a faint drawing of the campus layout. On the back, investigators reported, the teen wrote he was going to kill the school’s receptionist, execute anyone in the office and hold the principal at gunpoint, ordering her to excuse the “Code Red”.

Also, beside each name was a Roman numeral, which one student told the investigator indicated that was how many round the teen planned to put into each person.

 

Police interviewed two students whose names were on the list. They recalled the teen calling it his “Kill List”.

The students reported the teen also spoke of making Napalm out of laundry detergent and gasoline. When questioned by police about his access to weapons, the teen said that his father had guns and ammunition.

According to the report, the teen told one student not to come to school May 15 and said, “I’m warning you.”

Boy brings knife to elementary school to ward off potential abductors

After hearing about someone trying to abduct a child in a suburban Lake Worth neighborhood earlier this week, a boy at Coral Reef Elementary decided to take safety into his own hands and packed a knife in his backpack and took it with him to school, school district officials report.

2011 file photo

School administrators discovered his concerns and confiscated the knife without incident.

“At no time did the student take the knife out of the backpack,” Principal Bobbi Moretto assured parents in a recorded phone call that went out Wednesday evening.

Moretto’s phone call made no mention of the attempted abduction reported by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s officials the day before.

But the call arrived in the evening after the school sent home a written note to parents that began: “The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office reminds parents to talk to their children about independent safety when they are playing in the neighborhood and/or on their way to or from school.”

While neither the note nor the call directly connected the child’s actions to the abduction attempt, a district spokeswoman confirmed the boy’s motivation Friday.

“His intent was to protect himself. He was afraid of what he had heard,” Amity Schuyler said.

The incident that drove his fear was reported to have happened Monday about 2 miles south of Coral Reef Elementary School in the Lake Charleston neighborhood, just east of Florida’s Turnpike and south of Hypoluxo Road.

Sheriff’s detectives say a child said he was playing in the 7300 block of Zurich Circle at about 3:45 p.m. when a man got out of a white van and approached the boy without saying anything. Further details are scant. The investigation continues.

WHAT TO DOhandcuffs

 

But the letter home to parents advises parents have a conversation with their children and hit these points:

Tell children to take action. Point out places they could seek help on their routes to and from the park and school.

Tell them to travel in a group or with a friend.

Warn them against taking rides  or changing plans without your permission

Alert them to the tricks would-be abductors use such as offering money or asking children for help.

Encourage children to tell a trusted adult when something or someone makes them uncomfortable.

And call crime stoppers if you have information about a crime… 1-800-458-TIPS (8477).

Clown hoaxes: PBC student faces discipline over photo; threat investigation continues

A Palm Beach County student is in trouble for playing a part in the wave of clown fear that plagued schools this week. District officials say this student didn’t pen the very specific written threats against students and teachers but unwisely shared a doctored photo that placed a clown on the Dreyfoos School of the Arts campus.

An image of a person wearing a clown mask outside Dreyfoos. (Photo provided)
An image of a person wearing a clown mask outside Dreyfoos. (Photo provided)

“But that alone caused the campus to be on edge,” said Schools Police Chief Lawrence Leon. He did not disclose the student’s name or school and said he expects the discipline to be handled administratively.  “There really wasn’t a threat, it was just implied.”

It’s not clear if the photo was ever posted to social media or simply circulated among students. Details about what rules were violated and the potential punishment were not immediately available.

Meanwhile, district investigators are working with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Delray Beach Police Department to track the original threats that surfaced Monday and are similar to those circulating nationally.

The culprits behind those threats can expect the district to pursue criminal charges, Leon said.

Similar arrests have been made elsewhere, most recently the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 12-year-old who authorities believe is behind a threat to kill students at a middle school – a threat posted with a clown image. The threat posted on the app music.ly under the handle “Clowning_Around” was specific to the school and the date.

In Palm Beach County, the first threats discovered Monday named five schools as intended targets.  That evening, someone had posted more expansive threats vowing to kill teachers, principals and children at every school in the county.

“Our detectives are actively investigating these threats, and once we find the person or people behind them, they will face criminal charges,” Leon said. “We know this is a hoax, but we take it very seriously, and will arrest those people responsible.”

They are not alone in their pursuit.

Time Magazine reports the frenzy was born when unsubstantiated accounts surfaced that clowns were spotted trying to lure children into the woods. “The craze has since ignited a national phenomenon, with scary clown sightings reported from Alabama to Wisconsin. While many were hoaxes, a handful of the incidents resulted in arrests: in Alabama, at least seven people face felony charges of making a terrorist threat connected to “clown-related activity,” Rainbow City Police Chief Jonathon Horton told the Times-Picayune.”

Clown costumes have been banned in one Connecticut school district.  Schools in Cincinnati closed after a woman claimed she was attacked by a knife-weilding clown – a story that was later discredited and ended in the woman’s arrest.

Pennsylvania State University students went on a clown offensive in the wee hours Tuesday, taking to the streets in numbers from 500 to 6,000 depending on the source. Armed with baseball bats and hockey sticks, they went hunting after rumors spread that a clown was on the loose near campus.

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: Hoax clown threats target 5 Palm Beach County schools, broader threats followed

Palm Beach County schools have now joined the ranks of those nationally dealing with hoax threats involving creepy clowns. School police are now investigating several threats posted Monday on Instagram and other social platforms. The first targeted five specific schools, but others against all county schools followed, district officials reported Tuesday morning.

The five schools targeted were Atlantic High School, Carver Middle School, Odyssey Middle School, Santaluces High School and Village Academy.

But by Tuesday morning, rumors about threats at other schools circulated widely. A photo posted of a clown in dark clothing standing on Dreyfoos School of the Arts campus, had students there buzzing and drew the attention of police on campus, students reported.

School Police Chief Lawrence Leon tried to allay parent concerns Monday night in a robo call to those with children in the targeted schools. He said the threats were unsubstantiated and that detectives are investigating the source. Leon promised to beef up police presence at the five named schools Tuesday to ensure students feel safe throughout the day.

School district officials did not release details of the posted threats Monday night, but one made via Instagram and forwarded to Extra Credit threatened teachers, principals and students at “every school in Palm Beach County.”

The hoax may involve clowns, but there’s nothing funny about them and the district has vowed that the pranksters will face criminal charges.

“Our detectives are actively investigating these threats, and once we find the person or people behind them, they will face criminal charges,” Leon said. “We know this is a hoax, but we take it very seriously, and will arrest those people responsible.”

Last school year, school police worked with local and federal law enforcement agencies after a series of unsubstantiated threats came into several Palm Beach County schools. Their investigation led to the arrest of Preston McWaters of Georgia who pled guilty and now faces up to 30 years in prison for the threats.

Over the weekend, school districts in Philadelphia and Houston reported they too were investigating disturbing threats against students and teachers. The threats were posted on social media by people posing as clowns. And they were simply the latest districts to deal with these hoaxes.

Bizarro clown threats have popped up in at least 10 states, according to news accounts. Last week, schools in Cincinnati closed after a woman claimed to have been attacked by a knife-wielding clown – a story that was later discredited and ended in the woman’s arrest.

Last week,  two Central Florida high school students were arrested after authorities say they donned masks from the movie “The Purge: Anarchy” and spooked students after  a threat was made on social media Friday. Lake County had gone on high alert Friday after a threat surfaced on social media that clowns would be kidnapping students and teachers.

Scammers target college students: Pay IRS debt in iTunes cards or else – and they do

itunes-gift-card

iTunes cards are great for gifts or buying music, but if someone calls you and tells you the IRS needs you to buy hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth to pay off delinquent taxes, don’t. It’s a scam – one that has particularly targeted college students.

And if you’re thinking no college student is foolish enough to believe some cold caller demanding an iTunes payoff, you’re wrong again. Most recently, a freshman at Virginia Tech fell for it. Reporters in Dallas, Texas are catching wind of it. And even the IRS is tweeting out warnings about it.

 

The Detroit Free Press reports Maggie Passino, 20, first ignored the calls, but repeated rings wore her down. When she answered, a man claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service told her she owed back taxes and taxes for school – and if she didn’t pay them, she would be arrested.

“He said,  ‘You’re going to be receiving a call from 911 and if you pick that up, you’ll be arrested,'” Passino told the Detroit Free Press. “I’m a college student. Being arrested for a college student looks really terrible, so I was really worried. That can affect your financial aid … really mess up your life.”

Perhaps the tip-off should’ve come when the caller told her how to pay off the debt: with $1,762 in iTunes gift cards.

But Passino apparently didn’t pause. She told the paper she drove to a nearby Kroger grocery store and purchased three gift cards for $500 and $262 on a fourth using her debit card. “I was freaked out,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “It was horrible. It’s the first day of classes — and everything is already in jeopardy. … They’ve got the intimidation thing down for sure.”

The Free Press reports that once the targets buy the gift cards, the scammers ask their victims to read off the 16-digit codes on back allowing the scammer to cash the cards to accounts online.

On Sunday, the IRS tweeted that they don’t operate that way. No payments due by iTunes card, no arrest threats.

 

The IRS has previously urged the public to keep watch for phone call scams that require them to send money to avoid prison time.

Be on the lookout for other preposterous scams as well. This summer, for example, the Jupiter police warned not to empty your bank account for callers who say they’re holding a relative captive and demand cash.

Of course, not everyone falls for the scam, and at least one woman turned the game around, guilting a caller with a story of her own that made the caller so remorseful for trying to take her money that he confessed.

Read more at the Detroit Free Press.