Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Now is Not the Time to Tweet About Shooting Up Your School, Even if You Don’t Mean It

Austin Lee Bowlin, 16. Police photo.

We’ve had a year rife with massacres, most recently the elementary school shooting that claimed the lives of 20 young children and eight adults in Newtown, Conn. Understandably, the nation’s law enforcement officers, educators and general public are all in a state of high alert. So even if, like Austin Lee Bowlin, you have a super cool hairdo and only do things ironically, you may want to reconsider posting that tweet about how you’re “Finna shoot up the school this Friday” lest you be hit with some serious charges.

Bowlin, 16, is a student at Miami Lakes Educational Center in Florida, and on Monday, authorities say he posted the following tweets:

  • Finna shoot up the school this Friday. Prepare Yourselfs
  • Making a list and checking it twice. We’re about to see who gets shot up real nice
  • Just cause this school has a “safety plan” don’t mean ****. I could have walked in today with a gun in my bag and shot my whole class. Dead.
  • Yeah, Bunch of little kids Died. I could care less and my school announces it like it matters. safe? I could shoot this school up easily

What Bowlin says he meant by those words was that a school shooting could happen anywhere. He says he was offended when his classmates were laughing in response to the principal’s announcement about the Newtown shooting, and wanted to make a point. ”The way that people are reacting is wrong and I came off strong about it but it got, obviously, got to a lot of people’s heads. The way that I see it is that for people to understand it, it has to be harsh,” Bowlin told Local 10 News. Police and school officials weren’t hip to his subtle message and took the tweets to mean what it looks like they mean. Bowlin was arrested and charged with writing or making threats to injure or cause bodily injury, with a possibility of felony charges on the horizon.

His school plans to expel him, and Bowlin feels bad about what he did. ”…I’m upset at myself for, you know, posting such harsh things like that,” he told Local 10. ”I miss it. I miss going to school.”

Even offline, an off-hand remark about a school shooting is enough to land you behind bars. In Alabama, a woman is facing a felony charge of making terroristic threats after she allegedly said “They can shoot up this whole school as far as I care” while on the premises of an elementary school.

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