PORT ANGELES — A Stevens Middle School student who was arrested after making a post on Snapchat that involved realistic airsoft guns will not face charges but instead will enter into a diversion program.
Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols said that what the 13-year-old boy sent to friends on Snapchat — a post showing realistic airsoft guns that referenced school — did not meet the legal threshold to be considered a “true threat,” so the boy will not face legal consequences for the post.
Instead, he is entering diversion after police found illegal weapons in the boy’s room, Nichols said.
When police arrested the boy at his bus stop 7 a.m. Monday the boy did not have any weapons with him.
Police then searched his home and found the airsoft guns that were in the picture, police said.
Nichols said that when police searched the boy’s room they also found three butterfly knives and one set of brass knuckles, all of which are illegal to possess.
Rather than charging the boy with a gross misdemeanor for possession of dangerous weapons, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is required by state law to have the boy enter a diversion program because he has no prior criminal offenses.
“Were the respondent not to comply with the diversion agreement, then it would be kicked back [for charges],” Nichols said. “Our hope is that this respondent meaningfully engages in diversion, which addresses accountability and rehabilitation.”
Under state law it is a felony to “threaten to bomb or otherwise injure any public or private school building,” even if the threat was a hoax.
Nichols said that though what the boy sent to friends on Snapchat was “clearly evidence of poor judgment,” it doesn’t meet the requirements for what the state Supreme Court has set for a “true threat.”
Nichols described the initial response by law enforcement and the Port Angeles School District as “quite good,” and said that this is an opportunity for the community to reflect on how the response could have been improved.
He said that according to the police report, the boy had sent the snap to his friends on Sunday, many of whom thought it was funny.
“The respondent reported to law enforcement that most recipients of the picture thought that it was funny,” Nichols said. “A number of them thought this was funny and part of a joke — and obviously it’s no joking matter.”
The Port Angeles Police Department first learned of the post at 4:24 a.m. Monday from the FBI, which told police Snapchat had reported the post to federal authorities.
Police determined that the post was a “credible threat” and contacted the Port Angeles School District at 6:45 a.m.
Parents and Port Angeles School District staff were informed that a student was in custody at about 7:45 a.m.
Police have said that it is concerning that the post wasn’t reported on Sunday and said they would like to speak to any student who may have seen the post.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].