A University of Central Florida student who posted about idolizing mass shooters may now purchase weapons, a judge ruled Monday, lifting a temporary ban.
In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Orlando police temporarily banned Christian Nicholas Velasquez from owning any weapons or ammunition by using Florida’s new gun legislation.
Velasquez, 21, drew authorities’ attention after the school community reported a user on social media platform Reddit who called himself "TheRealUCFChris" to the campus police. The online user had not only called Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz and Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock heroes.
It was the first time the Orlando Police Department practiced the "risk protection order," a newly created type of civil injunction that allows law enforcement to seize firearms from people deemed by a court to be mentally ill or who present a violent threat to themselves or others.
Considering the fact authorities failed to act on Nikolas Cruz tip-offs, the man accused of killing 17 people at the Florida high school, law enforcement bodies have now become wary of individuals harboring such contemptuous thoughts. That is why the city attorneys sought to persuade Circuit Judge Bob LeBlanc to extend the temporary ban on Velasquez a year. But the judge declined to extend the ban.
The city’s attorney, Alexander Karden, said the legislation enables the court to assess the mental health of an individual and allow it to order mental health treatment before a person commits a crime. Karden cited psychological evaluations that suggested he was on step three of five steps of progression toward committing violence.
“He’s following the trajectory. … This statute is not designed for someone who’s already gone over the top. It’s designed to stop them before they get there,” Karden said.
Kendra Parris, Velasquez’s lawyer, insisted that just on the grounds of online comments one cannot assume he would act on them. She further said he had not purchased a weapon and he does not have a criminal record. Parris added he would have voluntarily renounced his gun rights had he been given the option.
Parris also said the extension of ban wouldn’t just be unfair to her client but will also harm his prospective career and expose him to other criminal liabilities.
She said his comments were an attempt by the 21-year-old to “to look like a badass on Reddit.” Parris said Velasquez went online and acted “like a jerk” on a platform that is “notoriously vulgar.”
Jeffrey Panter, UCF police officer, interviewed Velasquez and asked hypothetical questions about committing a mass shooting. Panter asked if his target would be UCF. Velasquez answered he would probably do it at either the middle school or the high school where he was bullied.
He also said it would take a tragic life event such as a breakup or termination from a good job to provoke him.
But Parris said that Velasquez repeatedly mentioned during the interview that "[i]t would take a lot to push [him] over the edge."
The investigation was pretty thorough as the suspect was taken to a mental health facility after the interview under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows people to be involuntarily detained and given emergency mental health evaluations if they are believed to be a threat to themselves or others. The doctor who evaluated him deemed he was not a threat.
Panter, along with FBI agents, also went to Velasquez’s home and searched his room. The young man’s father voluntarily handed his own revolver to the authorities. He, however, testified on behalf of his son and was adamant his son wasn’t violent.
Along with the city attorneys, people in general are baffled by the judge’s decision.
And the NRA will call him a 'law abiding gun owner' until he isn't. Then he'll be call 'crazy', 'mentally ill' or some other euphemism in order to quite literally whitewash it.— Squatch Soros, Hide & Seek World Champion?? (@GuitarSquatch1) April 3, 2018
UCF student who idolized mass shooters online can buy guns, judge decides https://t.co/CPbkmC9K9I
"But why didn't anyone do anything BEFORE the person committed mass murder," they always ask.https://t.co/6rxwEabv8O— Dan J (@RelUnrelated) April 2, 2018
So basically our government wants kids shot. https://t.co/sSTNNVysm1— BorderingOrder?? (@borderorder) April 2, 2018
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