Ohio High School Student Arrested For Posing With Assault Gun On Facebook After Recent Shootings

There is an interesting case out of Mantua, Ohio. A 17-year-old student at Crestwood High School was arrested for posing with an assault rifle on Facebook and writing about the massacre in allegedly favorable terms. This followed the shooting at Chardon High School in Ohio.

Notably, the boy has not been charged with a weapons violation so the gun may have been legal. Instead, he was charged with first-degree misdemeanors, including two counts of inducing panic, one count each of aggravated menacing and telecommunications harassment.

I understand the concern of the school and the need to move quickly on such matters, including a suspension pending investigation. I also understand the emotive response to this reckless and thoughtless posting when so many are mourning the deaths of the Ohio students.

The charge of “inducing panic” and “menacing” has always concerned civil libertarians. Here is the provision on inducing panic:

2917.31 Inducing panic.
(A) No person shall cause the evacuation of any public place, or otherwise cause serious public inconvenience or alarm, by doing any of the following:

(1) Initiating or circulating a report or warning of an alleged or impending fire, explosion, crime, or other catastrophe, knowing that such report or warning is false;

(2) Threatening to commit any offense of violence;

(3) Committing any offense, with reckless disregard of the likelihood that its commission will cause serious public inconvenience or alarm. . . .

Note it is not just “caus[ing] the evacuation of any public place” but also “otherwise caus[ing] serious public inconvenience or alarm.” Serious public inconvenience? The ambiguity of that language raises serious constitutional concerns.

In this case, the boy posted the picture and wrote:

“I’m close to going on a stabbing spree. I can’t take some of these people anymore.”

“Who agrees with their friend that it’s a good idea to shoot up a school?”

The last comment was written hours after the attacks. However, why can’t students talk about such feelings or even admit identification with the anger? The concern is a slippery slope where, once the government begins to declare such statements as causing panic, a wide array of statements become fair game for arrest. What is interesting about the panic crime is that it practically turns not on the requirement of intent but on the view of other people to our picture or comments.

I do not see how this boy met the three conditional acts based on the news accounts even for a panic charge. He does not appear to have made a false report or threaten to kill or committed an offense.

The menacing provision is equally problematic in this context:

2903.22 Menacing.
(A) No person shall knowingly cause another to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the person or property of the other person, the other person’s unborn, or a member of the other person’s immediate family.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of menacing. Except as otherwise provided in this division, menacing is a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If the victim of the offense is an officer or employee of a public children services agency or a private child placing agency and the offense relates to the officer’s or employee’s performance or anticipated performance of official responsibilities or duties, menacing is a misdemeanor of the first degree or, if the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to an offense of violence, the victim of that prior offense was an officer or employee of a public children services agency or private child placing agency, and that prior offense related to the officer’s or employee’s performance or anticipated performance of official responsibilities or duties, a felony of the fourth degree.

Effective Date: 04-10-2001

To “knowingly cause another to believe” is an incredibly fluid concept. Once again, this student was voicing his own feelings but did not directly call for any violent act. Even teachers have been known to pose with guns — though they have also faced punishment for such postings.

Based on these news reports, what do you think about the use of these panic and menacing provisions against the student?

Source: CBS

13 thoughts on “Ohio High School Student Arrested For Posing With Assault Gun On Facebook After Recent Shootings”

  1. Mike, there is absolutely no functional difference between what is commonly called an “assault rifle” and a typical hunting rifle. The only difference is appearance. A true assault rifle has a full-auto selector, which turns it into a submachine gun. Those are illegal to own unless you have a thorough background check by the FBI and pay a horrendously expensive tax.

    Here is an interesting video that explains why and how there is no meaningful difference. I suggest you watch Officer Leroy Pyle’s whole demonstration, but when you get to about the 6:30 point, the lecture gets to the main point I was making.

  2. Mike
    Assault Rifles is a term pandered by 2nd Amendment opponents. Much like Partial Birth Abortion is used by right to life groups. Rarely are either utilized as their names might tend to imply and the focus upon them best serves as a shock factor intended to further their overall agendas. This of course is presented as a referenced example only, and not intended to express a matter of opinion.

    Assault rifles are semi-automatic, they fire the same number of rounds in an allotted time frame as any revolver or semi-automatic weapon. Their advantages lie in them being a more accurate point and shoot weapon than a handgun, and their use of lower caliber relatively cheap ammunition in comparison to most other semi’s.

    One could literally go bankrupt firing an equal number of 45 caliber rounds as a single AK-47 clip holds. This affords its owners the ability to better their own and their family members shooting skills with a higher repetetion of target practice sessions.

    Although they may appear to be a good example of overkill for day to day home defense purposes, their high capacity clips of small caliber ammo are more than warranted in the events of natural or national disasters as we witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina, and the LA riots.

    Their other advantage lies in the deterrence derived from their appearance, much like how the sound of racking a shell into a shotgun is as well recognized as the sound of a rattlesnake. Both will tend to cause even multiple intruders to hesitate and avoid the source of either.

    I personally find the fact that the appearance alone can act as a deterrent without needing to fire the weapon to be a plus factor, and not a negative.

    It was assault rifles displayed by the Korean Shop Owners under targeted assault in the LA riots that many credit for disbanding those riots by detering the looting. Whether one chooses to believe that or not, none present would credit such a deterrence to the presence of law enforcement.

    I personally would contend that either or both the assault rifle and/or Mossberg Maverick shotgun better serves the purpose of home defense due to the fact that one is less likely to miss their assailant(s). This in turn reduces the odds of missing and having your own weapon used upon yourself or your family as is to often the case with rifles and/or handguns when utilized for home defense purposes.

  3. As for Breitbart, now that cancer can be named (remember when it could not), I can think of several unmentionables: HIV of course (hard to hide), and oddly overdosing on Viagra and teenagers has occurred at least here to a multi-billionaire. Only rumors of course, but his antics were well-known.

  4. “I wonder how many counts of menacing occur in the average high school every day?”


    Literally dozens per school, with no residual consequences until a student driven by hopelessness acts out, in a society where weapons are readily available. The application of the law i this instance is arbitrary, but I wonder what need for either hobby or protection is there for assault rifles that make their ownership legal?

  5. By that definition of “Menacing” I wonder how many counts of menacing occur in the average high school every day? That kid’s statement of “shooting up a school” didn’t come from thin air. The vicious, petty, cruel atmosphere in most high schools has pushed many kids into the area of mental instability. Some kids respond by wanting to kill themselves, some kids respond by wanting to kill their tormentors. Maybe we should focus less on standardized testing and more on forming kids into civil, courteous, compassionate human beings.

  6. Schools are always locking the barn door… The constant suppression of student feelings, especially if trying to get good grades, or if total frustration is the fact of a student’s attitude – all that is denied by the schools which are in addition struggling with reduced funding for education, much less public health issues, such as violence in the teenage population. If you are violent, you will look up to violent role models. That whole school probably needs mental health care but they will most likely just slam this particular youth. The vague law won’t bother the prosecution at all.

  7. Vague and overbroad statute. Tone means a lot. The defendant needs a jury of his peers. Voir dire (jury selection) would be fun on this case.

  8. To me, these provisions are an example of a generality: Making laws seldom reduce the incidence of crimes, or modify behavious.
    Doing so, as JT points out only restricts the lawful ones, in this case the expression of substantive value, emotional content, etc.

  9. What is the penalty for expulsion of odorifous gases?

    Less on topic, is the news that Sweden is competing in the “most evil criminal” contest. Seems a couple planned the double murder of the girls’ parents, doped the parents, set the house on fire and began their alibli trip to Brazil. Motive: inheritance and lifetime payments from insurance. They even had planned and fingered a “culprit” in the police investigation.
    Found guilty, they’re now being mentally examined, and will then be sentenced.

  10. And we are different than the Saudi county’s we complain about how? Bad taste does not make one a criminal….. If that’s the standard…. 99% of the poster here… Would certainly have been arrested by now….

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