VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A 15-year-old student at Pine Ridge High School is accused of anonymously submitting multiple tips about a gun on campus, forcing the campus to go into a lockdown Wednesday morning.
According to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, the first tip came through the Fortify Florida app or website shortly before 11 a.m. and read, “the country kid with a blue backpack and brown hair said he had a gun, a glock 19 to be exact.”
After that, the campus was placed on lockdown mode and dozens of law enforcement officers spent more than an hour searching buildings, portables, classrooms and backpacks in an attempt to locate a weapon.
The lockdown was lifted at about 12:30 p.m. when authorities determined that there was no gun on campus.
At 1:08 p.m., a second Fortify Florida tip was received that read, "Guess What!!!! I’m still here. Yall stupid as hell. eat this glock (expletive). Damn I can see you deputy’s. but yall can’t find (expletive).”
The third and final tip came at 1:57 p.m. and read, “Yo yo yo homie I seen that gun again he switched backpacks yall betta be ready cuz when the strap gets pulled out we all gon to hell." That message ended with a frowning emoji.
Deputies said they were able to identify a 15-year-old student as the person behind the false tips. The teen initially denied knowing anything about the incident then said that it was meant as a joke, according to a news release.
Volusia County School District’s Director of Safety and Security Chief Michelle Newman said this kind of thing isn’t a laughing matter.
“False tips not only disrupted the school day but also created fear among our students, families, and staff members,” Newman said in a news release. “Students must be reminded that the FortifyFL app was created after the tragic Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting to report legitimate threats and concerns within our schools and not to be used as a prank. Every tip submitted via the app is thoroughly vetted and investigated and those students making false tips will face serious consequences. I am extremely proud of the outstanding work by the Sheriff’s Office, VCS Information Technology and the Safety and Security Department in quickly resolving these false tips and keeping our schools safe.”
The boy is facing three felony counts of making a false report of a bomb or explosive weapon of mass destruction.
“The fast and thorough response to this call was exactly what we ask of our deputies and school security staff,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the way we worked as a team to go after a potential threat against our students. Thankfully, it was just another hoax. But we’re not going to let idiotic pranks lull us into complacency. I’m grateful for all the hard work that went into tracking down the source and holding him accountable for his boneheaded actions.”