MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WWSB) - Deputies say a threat on a social media app led to a brief lockdown Thursday morning at a Manatee County middle school and the arrest of a 13-year-old student.
The sheriff’s office says Wednesday night, the suspect and victim, both students at Nolan Middle School, as well as an unknown number of others, were on a live streaming app called ‘House Party.'
Deputies say the suspect and victim were insulting one another and verbally threatening one another.
After the victim exited the app, the suspect and others remained. That’s when deputies say the suspect made threats against the victim while rubbing two knives together and held up a gun, saying he was going to shoot the victim.
Thursday morning, one parent called 911, a tip was received on the Fortify app, and several parents called the school about the threat. As news of the threat spread, several parents came to the school attempting to pick up their kids.
“I was pretty scared at the time," said one student, Olivia Armstrong. "I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I could get hurt or injured or something could happen,’ so I’m like, I want to talk to my mom and tell her that there’s something going on.”
Some parents like Armstrong’s are frustrated with what they called a lack of communication by the school district. Armstrong was told she couldn’t use her phone at all during the lockdown, but even after, Armstrong’s mother said the only information she got about what happened came from Facebook and the news.
Students said they were unsure what was going on, too. Some even called their parents to tell them a final goodbye.
“We’re sitting here thinking our kids were in danger all day, we had no clue," said Olivia’s mother, Meredith Barcomb.
Deputies say the suspect was stopped by the school resource officer at 9:10am as he exited the bus. The school district says Nolan Middle School was placed on lockdown from 9:20 a.m. until 9:45 a.m.
According to the sheriff’s office, a long rifle pellet gun was found following a search of a vehicle and two homes.
The 13-year-old student was arrested and charged with False Report Concerning the Use of Firearms in a Violent Manner.
The school district said it’s just the reality we now live in. Threats to schools are commonplace and in Manatee County they happen weekly. The district urged parents to sit down with their children and talk to them about this.
Staff said parents are notified once the situation is under control, the campus is safe and they have the facts. But Barcomb said she never got that notification.
“There’s a lot of changes that need to be made locally on the Manatee School Board’s account just to take care of this in a different way for us," she said.