Lee County sheriff defends arrest of child in school threat, despite criticism from kid’s dad

Reporter: Michael Hudak Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

WINK News was the first to tell the story of the father fighting to save his 10-year-old son after the boy was arrested and accused of threatening to shoot up Patriot Elementary School in Cape Coral.

Now, that boy’s father and his attorneys say they are coming after Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno for the handling of the child’s arrest.

The video the dad can’t get out of his mind is on the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. They did not blur over his son’s face. WINK News added that because the boy’s only 10 years old.

The sheriff posted the video and broadcast his name because he believed the child threatened a mass shooting.

The dad also can’t forget the moment deputies came to the house and took his boy away. “The most difficult part was seeing my son look back at me as they were putting him in the vehicle, not realizing what was going on. Tears coming down his face,” said the boy’s father.

Sheriff Marceno said he feels for that father, but he’s got a job to do, and he’s going to do it.

“By Florida statute, when you commit that felony, your picture goes up, and I don’t care,” said Marceno.

The dad said by blindly putting his son’s name, mug shot, and video online, he put a target on the boy’s back when no court, jury, or judge had convicted him of anything.

“I feel that the poor judgment of the sheriff’s department has possibly put my son in danger,” said the father.

Unless lawyers change a judge’s mind, his son will spend 21 days in the Lee County Juvenile Detention Center.

“Sheriff Marceno is indiscriminately enforcing his law-and-order agenda,” said Leticia Kim, the director of legal affairs for fair the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR).

FAIR is helping the boy’s dad fight the arrest.

“He’s repeatedly called himself the law-and-order sheriff. And it says that his platform is, ‘fake threat, real consequences,’ but I think what we have here is a warped mash-up of that, which is fake law and order, real consequences,” said Kim.

Kim believes the sheriff parades juveniles for political gain.

The arrest report says the boy sent a series of text messages to a friend, and deputies believe they add up to a mass shooting threat.

His father said the texts were not back to back to back. He said there was a time between the first two texts and the third.

Kim said the first text talked about “Obtaining a trillion dollars.” The second text said, “with the money I bought this,” and sent a google image of four AR-style rifles. The last text, “get ready for water day,” refers to an end-of-the-year school celebration.

“That ‘get ready for water day’ text has no significance at all unless you were to actually believe that (sic) obtained a trillion dollars and had taken himself the photo of the role of firearms that had been in his possession. The sheriff’s office knew that both of those were false and utterly absurd,” said Kim.

The arrest report does say the image of the weapons came from Google, and so far, there is no indication the boy had access to any guns.

“This is not for political gain. I believe in one thing, and that is law and order. I believe at the end of the day, it is my absolute responsibility when I took office, which has always been my top priority, safe kids, safe schools. Now, if the dad or someone else believes it’s political gain, that’s their belief,” said Marceno.

WINK News asked the sheriff why releasing the video of the perp walk, and the mugshot was important to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

“I had countless parents and guardians call me and text me and say ‘thank you, sheriff. Thank you because it makes life at home for my kids a lot easier.’ I tell them, ‘you see that? Don’t ever do that. Don’t ever make a threat. You’ll end up like that on the news.’ And it makes, and it shows zero tolerance,” said Marceno.

The sheriff’s office said the 10-year-old is the youngest person in juvenile detention right now.

The sheriff believes he planned a mass shooting. His father said that’s not possible.

He also said he did not know about the text messages. “Not until right before the sheriff showed up.”

The sheriff sent deputies to arrest the fifth-grader who goes to school at Patriot Elementary.

The father is adamant that his son was not making a threat. “Absolutely not. He never used those words.”

The sheriff refuses to just take dad’s word for it.

“There was no threat of any kind and that has unfortunately had very serious, tragic and permanent consequences,” said Kim.

The permanent consequences start with the sheriff’s decision to post this video and release the boy’s name.

“When you ignore a red flag, you could have a mass shooting. I never want to be the sheriff who gets what’s perceived to be a threat let’s say we don’t look into it. And we said, ‘well, it’s just a 10-year-old.’ Next thing you know, you’re looking at an incident, god forbid like Texas. It’s not going to happen here,” said Marceno.

The boy’s dad is a disabled veteran. He said he has guns in his home and that they are under lock and key.

“So I’ve made it very clear that gun safety is very important in my home, I’ve made sure that my children understand what that means as far as like, what it looks like to clear a weapon what it looks like,” said the boy’s father. “He’s possibly in danger in a place that that that is really just a prison for children for pictures, Google pictures.”

“Let’s get the child the help that the child needs,” said Marceno.

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