Suspended 13-year-old arrested for making fake shooting threat to get middle school dance canceled

Posted at 2:00 PM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 14:07:03-04

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — A suspended 13-year-old middle school student was arrested on Tuesday for calling in a shooting threat last Friday that caused a school dance to be canceled. 

According to the Winter Haven Police Department, on Friday, the administrative line at Denison Middle School received three phone calls stating people would be killed at the planned dance later in the evening.

Police say that the first call came in at 12:50 p.m. and a male voice said, "Thirty people are going to die at the dance tonight. Tell Ms. Cox her car is not safe." Then the caller hung up.

The next call came in at 12:59 p.m. and the same male voice said, "Thirty-five people are going to die tonight."

The third and final call came in at 2:05 p.m., again with the same male voice stating, "Thirty people are going to die at the dance tonight."

The principal contacted police and investigators immediately started work to identify the caller. In the meantime, Winter Haven Police planned to have uniformed officers at the dance. However, after further discussions, the school made the decision to cancel the school dance out of an abundance of caution.

As the investigation continued, there was no caller-ID found on the school phone system. Ultimately, investigators were able to obtain a phone number through the school's phone service provider.

On Tuesday, detectives went to the 13-year-old's home and made contact with his guardian. The student reportedly told a detective that he made the calls and it was all a joke. 

At the time of this offense, police say that the student had been placed on out-of-school suspension due to a previous incident that occurred at the school, resulting in the 13-year-old suspect slapping another student in the face. The boy was also barred from the planned school dance and told the $10 ticket he purchased of the dance would not be refunded.

"Based on the fact the [the student] made three threatening phone calls reporting impending mass casualties and an intentional act to disrupt the school function with the dance being canceled, [he] was charged with Hoax Threats via Phone (F-2) and Disrupting a School Function (M-2)," Winter Haven Police said in a press release. 

"Let me make this perfectly clear," said Chief Charlie Bird. "It is not a laughing matter involving any violence, particularly a shooting, whether at a school, a school function or any gathering no matter where the location. We are committed to making sure that anyone who thinks it's a joke will find out that we aren't laughing."