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Lawmakers Want To Ensure Officers Can Follow Up On Online Threats

Erich Martin

A measure that would expand Florida’s rules on issuing threats is moving forward. Officials are pointing to the many copycat threats made following the school shooting in Parkland as a reason for why the change is needed. 

When it comes to threats made on paper, Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) says Florida law is clear. But he says that’s not the case when it comes to threats made electronically.

“Courts in our state have held that social media and other electronic posts do not satisfy the requirements of current law because of the means of delivery. So this bill would clarify that and make it clear that any threats that are made over social media or over the internet would be included in the threats that are currently included in Florida law,” Steube says.

But Steube says today many threats are made through social media and he says it’s time that Florida law caught up. He has a bill to do that and it’s getting support from law enforcement.

Captain Dennis Strange represents the Orange County Sheriff’s office. Strange says the copycat threats made following the deadly school shooting in Parkland is an example of that. He says his son, who is an Orange County deputy sheriff was working the day after the tragedy.

“Less than 24 hours after the massacre down south he called me and he said ‘Dad did you hear what happened today? We’ve been inundated with these false reports, these threats to shoot up the schools and things.’ He said, ‘I went to a school and I knew when I got there, there was nothing I could do. We couldn’t charge this guy criminally,’” Strange says.

He couldn’t be charged because he made the threat online. Strange says in the case he’s talking about a young man issued a threat on social media saying he planned to bring a gun to school and shoot his classmates.

“We met with the school. We did a complete lock down and this is what the sheriff is trying to bring forward too. He says it isn’t a victimless crime. My son said ‘when you’re walking through these hallways these kids know why they’re being locked down. They know that somebody has threatened them and they’re scared to death. They’re petrified and he says as they’re walking through the hallways we see this but ultimately we search his backpack. We search his locker and we walk away.’ What we’re asking for is please, please give us the resources we need to address this issue to hold these individuals accountable,” Strange says.

Steube’ s measure has one committee stop left to go in the Senate. The House version of the measure is heading for the chamber’s floor.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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