Mis­sis­sippi teen jailed on charges he threat­ened shoot­ing

Starkville Daily News - - FORUM - By JEFF AMY As­so­ci­ated Press

JACK­SON, Miss. (AP) — A Mis­sis­sippi high school se­nior was jailed with­out bail Fri­day af­ter the FBI charged him with threat­en­ing a school shoot­ing over so­cial me­dia, but his de­fense lawyer says of­fi­cials are mis­read­ing the stu­dent's dark hu­mor.

Af­ter a hear­ing in fed­eral court in Ox­ford, U.S. Mag­is­trate Judge Roy Percy or­dered 19-year-old Nathan Caleb Brown of Southaven held in the Lafayette County jail, find­ing him too danger­ous to re­lease. Court pa­pers show of­fi­cials confiscated three hand­guns, two knives and am­mu­ni­tion from Brown's home.

The FBI ar­rested Brown on Thurs­day at De­Soto Cen­tral High School in Southaven. Court pa­pers show Brown ad­mit­ted the post­ings in ques­tion­ing at the school.

"Brown stated the whole ba­sis for these tweets was to be funny on­line," wrote Spe­cial Agent Charles Bol­ing in a sworn crim­i­nal charge filed Thurs­day. Bol­ing added Brown was asked "how he thought nor­mal peo­ple would re­ceive the posts, and Brown re­sponded that he could see where it would be con­cern­ing for peo­ple out­side his so­cial group."

The charge of trans­mit­ting a threat across state lines car­ries a prison sen­tence of up to five years in fed­eral prison.

De­fense lawyer Steve Farese said Brown's par­ents tes­ti­fied at the Fri­day de­ten­tion hear­ing has never been in trou­ble, has no vi­o­lent ten­den­cies and has never owned or fired a gun. Farese said it's "undis­puted" that the guns, in­clud­ing one that was loaded, be­long to Brown's mother and were found in her bed­room.

Farese said he Brown's ac­tions don't jus­tify him be­ing charged with a fed­eral crime, say­ing Brown and other teens com­mu­ni­cate things elec­tron­i­cally that would have never been cir­cu­lated widely in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

"No longer can you sit at home and write in your per­sonal jour­nal your fan­tasies," Farese said. "You can­not put tone in an email or a text. You can­not un­der­stand the con­text of a dark joke."

The FBI, though, dis­agrees. Bol­ing wrote that two dif­fer­ent peo­ple out­side Mis­sis­sippi had re­ported Brown's tweets to the FBI "as po­ten­tial threats of vi­o­lence."

The charge cites a num­ber of tweets that Brown made be­tween Fe­bru­ary and April, in­clud­ing one say­ing he wanted to "make a Columbine v2," or ver­sion two of the 1999 shoot­ing at the Colorado high school; one telling an­other user "I can't be­lieve you shot up a school with­out me" on the day of a shoot­ing at Great Falls High School in Mary­land; and a tweet Mon­day threat­ing a shoot­ing at Snapchat head­quar­ters af­ter the ser­vice locked Brown's ac­count.

On April 1, court pa­pers say Brown re­sponded to a user who sent some of the tweets to the FBI say­ing "They knew about Niko­las Cruz too," ref­er­enc­ing the per­son ac­cused in Feb. 14 shoot­ing at a Park­land, Florida, high school that killed 17. The Cruz tweet ze­roes in on crit­i­cism of the FBI for ig­nor­ing tips warn­ing about Cruz.

"I un­der­stand what they did and I un­der­stand why they did it," Farese said of the FBI.

Of­fi­cials be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing af­ter a March 19 tweet was re­ported, even­tu­ally tracked an in­ter­net ad­dress to a Southaven home, and ob­served Brown leave home and drive to De­Soto Cen­tral on Wed­nes­day.

Bol­ing said a brief search of Brown's phone af­ter his ar­rest "re­vealed nu­mer­ous searches in­volv­ing se­rial killers and nu­mer­ous pho­tos of Columbine and other school shoot­ings."

The case will be re­ferred to a grand jury and Farese said he hoped at some point to meet with prose­cu­tors to dis­cuss "the to­tal­ity of the cir­cum­stances."

Even if he's not con­victed, Brown could face con­se­quences up to ex­pul­sion for year at the high school from which he had been sched­uled to grad­u­ate from in May, ac­cord­ing to De­Soto County school dis­ci­pline poli­cies. Spokes­woman Kather­ine Nel­son is­sued a state­ment ac­knowl­edg­ing the ar­rest, but de­clined fur­ther com­ment.

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