MESQUITE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – An incident at a Mesquite middle school on Friday, March 23 shows that criminal threats that can go beyond just internet postings of hit lists.
Students found out they can get in serious trouble for simply pretending to point a gun.
Police were called to Terry Middle School after a report of possible gunfire in a field near the school.
It turns out there was no gunfire or gun.
But a 13-year-old student pretending to have one by pointing his cell phone at others faces a seldom seen criminal charge related to school security.
Mesquite Police ordered a lockdown of Terry Middle School last Friday afternoon.
Authorities say witnesses told them they saw someone from outside the school walking towards them who appeared to be pointing something at them.
Those witnesses panicked and ran into the school.
Police found the student who admitted to pointing a cell phone at other students as if it were a gun.
Police say he admitted his intent was to alarm other students.
Even without a gun, that intent was enough for police to charge the student for threatening to exhibit a firearm under a law that applies only to school property or a school bus.
“Just kidding around holding your hand like a gun pointed towards somebody if that person is in fear of what you might do in the future then they could be in violation of this and so all of our kids need to know that they need to be careful about what they do,” said Mesquite Lt. Brian Parrish.
The charge facing the student comes with a punishment that ranges from a year to 10 years in jail depending on whether its classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.
“Law enforcement cannot take a chance and simply assume you’re waving a cell phone or plastic gun,” said Lt. Parrish.
A North Texas criminologist agrees with a zero tolerance approach Mesquite Police took in this case.
Tarleton State University School of Criminology Executive Director Dr. Alex Del Carmen said, “How many body bags is it going to take for us to recognize that we need to be proactive versus reactive?”
Mesquite Police insists that students in the city are taught not to make threats, even as a joke, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise and they should know better.