Lawyer for UCF student who had gun returned: 'My client did nothing illegal'

Lawyer for student said client was answering 'hypothetical' questions

By Troy Campbell - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - The lawyer for the University of Central Florida student who had his family's gun returned to him said her client "did nothing illegal" and that he was answering hypothetical questions by police. 

Kendra Parris said police rejected her client's attempt to explain himself and that an officer "started telling my client what he must have been thinking."

The 21-year old student from UCF had his father's gun taken away from him after he said he idolized mass shooters, including Stephen Paddock and Nikolas Cruz. 

No charges were filed. 

"This is why you never speak to the police without a lawyer," Parris said. "There is no good answer to a hypothetical question, and there is nothing to gain by acting cooperative or giving a cop the answers you think he wants to hear. The judge also pointed out his concern with the hypothetical and leading questions in that interview. I can't emphasize this enough: never, never, never talk to the police without an attorney present. The police are not trying to help you. They are trying to find a way to nail you to the wall, and this case is a perfect example. My client did nothing illegal."

Audio from a 90-minute interview between UCF police and a 21-year-old student was released on Tuesday. In the recording, the student is heard telling the officer that he knew exactly why he was called in to speak with investigators. The student's attorney tells News 6 that her client was simply answering hypothetical questions.

The interview begins with the student acknowledging posts he made on the website forum Reddit, which include "Cruz is my hero" in reference to the Parkland shooting suspect.
 
Student: "I don't condone those comments."
UCF Officer Jeffrey Panter: "You wrote those comments."
Student: "I don't condone my own comments." 

The student goes on to tell the officers, "I would never ever act out in violence in a mass shooting or, or anything of the sort." 

The officer is then heard in the audio asking him why thoughts of becoming a mass shooter were on his mind after the disturbing comments, including praise of the Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock.

"I thought about the, you know, the rush that goes through, must go through the shooter's head as they're, you know, you know, rampaging through the school. Knowing that they, you know, no matter what happens then, they will be remembered," said the student.

The 21-year-old is heard telling the officer several times that he has never planned specifics of a shooting. He also said that no one deserved to die in the Parkland shooting, calling it a tragedy.

The officer is heard asking the student if he ever built up the courage to commit a school shooting, where would he target. 

"Not UCF, no, but if I were to do it, it would be at a probably my middle school or the high school," said the student.

Orlando police issued their first Risk Protection Order against the student, after Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law after the Parkland shooting. Police, alongside the FBI showed up to the student's house and took possession of the student's father's handgun.

An Orange County judge ruled Monday to deny extending the order and dissolve the current protection order.

The student was Baker Acted after the interview with police, but Parris said that her client has no history of mental health issues.

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