A Florida middle school student faces felony charges after she falsely claimed seeing an armed man on campus Wednesday, cops said, triggering a massive police response and terrifying parents still reeling from the Parkland massacre a year ago.
Fifty-five deputies, 20 school security officers and several K9 units descended on Farnell Middle School, north of Tampa, just before 10 a.m. after a female 12-year-old student told her teacher that she saw a man in black carrying a gun.
Within minutes, the middle school and nearby Bryant Elementary School were placed under lockdown, FOX13 reported.
"Deputies cleared rooms and buildings, searched bags and secured students until it was determined to be a safe scene," the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.
About 1,200 students were sent through metal detectors one at a time, as the rest were told to hunker down in locked rooms and stay away from windows.
“It’s heart-wrenching,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a news conference. “They had to barricade in place as we stormed the campus. That’s traumatic that these children had to go through that. It’s absolutely intolerable.”
As terrified parents waited at a nearby parking lot, investigators reportedly determined the sixth-grade student had lied to her teacher. She has been charged with second-degree felony for allegedly fabricating the threat.
Chronister, who in the past has advocated for placing juvenile offenders in diversion programs and keeping them out of the criminal justice system, said it was not the case for a hoax.
"There's no room for any type of entertainment or joke, any type of made-up threat,” Chronister said in a press release announcing charges against the student. “I think that the only way to handle this is by taking a hard line stance and making sure all of our children know if you make a school-based threat, it's no different than making a threat in an airport or in an airplane. It's going to be [prosecuted] to the fullest extent.”
Wednesday’s alleged hoax came one day before the one-year anniversary of the Valentine’s Day shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in which 17 people were killed.