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.
Two Franklin County 13-year-old boys are sitting in a Department of 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, a spokeswoman for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, said the two juveniles, one who attended the Franklin County Schools’s 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. She said there was no evidence the boys made threats to use the firearm.
Each was given two weapons charges, one for possession of a firearm unlawfully by minor, and the other for improper exhibit of a firearm, a first degree misdemeanor committed by “any person having or carrying any dirk, sword, sword cane, firearm, electric weapon or device, or other weapon shall, in the presence of one or more persons, (exhibiting) the same in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner, not in necessary self-defense.”
The boys, inside of a home, had shared their pictures and comments through SnapChat, which has as wide an outreach as the sharers have followers. One of the individuals 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.
These three individuals will be part of the school safety program at the Franklin County Schools, which includes two school resource officers from the sheriff’s department, overseen by Lt. Gary Martina, as well as one at the ABC School. Rob Wheetley serves as the district’s safety specialist.
Superintendent Traci Moses said the matter will be reviewed by ABC School’s board, which could recommend dismissal of the student who attends there, 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 campus,” Moses said. “They will not be on any school campus.”
Moses said the people who reported the matter did the right thing, in keeping with the “see something, say something” theme being 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,” she said. “Kids have come forward; it’s very important to report any concern that may involve safety.”