Students at Liberty High School in Bealeton, Virginia, posted alleged death threats against at least one high school student — yet the sheriff thinks the comments were not meant “to threaten.”
The school’s administrator’s contacted the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office about the threats made on the Discord gaming app, according to WUSA-TV.
The six students in the group chat called “Operation Will To Kill” shared screenshots of the conversation, which included comments like “can we just kill him already,” “espionage was always part of the plan, lynching him was just the end game” and “edgy idea — we wear masks and then right before he dies we take them off.”
The students also warned a classmate he had only one month to live and shared a photo of a military-style rifle during the conversation.
“He has a month to live and everytime (sic) he does something that pisses us off we take off a day,” one teen said.
Making such threats against a person is considered a felony, according to Virginia law, and can result in up to five years in prison.
The comments were all made off-campus. All six students were 16 or 17 years old and it is not yet clear what race the students or the people they threatened are. However, more than 80 percent of Fauquier County residents are white and fewer than 10 percent are black.
A concerned parent shared the screenshot of the discussion after which an investigation went underway.
However, earlier this week, the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office announced none of the teens would be charged.
“The purpose was not to threaten or intimidate this student but rather to inform this student what the others were saying behind his back,” the sheriff’s office said.
But how can he really know what was on the mind of the students when they were having this conversation?
“The law criminalizing threats of death or bodily injury does not require that threats of this nature be communicated directly to the intended recipient,” authorities said. “However, the law does require proof that the accused intended to make and communicate the threat and that the threat was made and communicated.”
The office also suggested the discussion was protected under free speech rights.
“Although there are comments in the chat about killing, these comments were not directed to the other student and were not posted in a public forum where the student would have likely seen them,” authorities said. “There is no evidence the participants in this conversation intended to communicate a threat directly or indirectly to the student, and the student was not invited into the chat. There is no evidence to suggest the participants contemplated the statements being passed on to the other student. The comments are disturbing and highly inappropriate; however, they do not constitute a criminal violation of the law.”
The chat participants also accused a classmate of planning to “shoot up the school” and maintaining a “shooter list” but he sheriff did not find any evidence of that plan.
Bridget Crane, who works in the school cafeteria, said she learned of the incident when she picked up her daughters.
“To me, even to joke about something like that is not normal; it’s scary,” she said.
Officers said they have taken measures to make sure the school is safe. They also said they cannot name the students because student privacy laws “prohibit the school division from giving specific details about individual students.”
Banner/Thumbnail credits: Pixabay, MabelAmber