Mar 162018
 

by Arnaud and Naja Girard…….

The State Attorney’s Office has released its investigative report on gun threat allegations at HOB Middle School. Christopher Weber, the SAO’s Chief Investigator, at the end of his thorough 9-page report, concluded that there is not a sufficient basis to bring criminal charges.

However, Weber did collect a statement from a witness who claims he remains certain that a student brought a real gun to an after-school event on January 16th.

Weber’s Findings of Facts

On October 11, 2017 a student was found at HOB with “a bright orange and green cap gun with a package of caps.” He had purchased the toy at the Dollar Tree store and was playing with it in the courtyard. He was immediately expelled from the school and forced to enroll in A.C.E., an alternative education program for boys.

Within a week, it was reported that another student had posted a Snapchat photo of himself pointing a revolver. As the viewer looks down the barrel of the gun, a caption reportedly added by the student’s friend a few days later, reads: ”[student] is gonna’ bust a cap in yah head.”

The school resource officer, David Hall [SRO], claims that he learned of the image and spoke with the student and his parents about it. He claims the father assured him that the revolver in the photo as well as all of the other guns in his home had now been secured.

Twelve weeks later, on January 16, 2018 the same student reportedly brought a gun (black and boxy type) in his backpack to an after-school event. When the student was searched 2 days later; no gun was found.

HOB Vice Principals Steve Vinson and Denise Santiago, along with SRO Hall, questioned the witness, a student whose mother works at HOB. All three claimed the witness was confused; he was not sure if the gun handle was black or silver. No action was taken. However, that witness told Weber, last week:

“[I] know what a real gun looks like and [I am] sure that it was a real gun.”

The witness’ father, also questioned by Weber, confirmed that his son came home that night and told him and his wife about having seen a real gun in the other student’s backpack.

During that same general time period, accusations involving drugs were also brought against the same student. School administrators state that the student was searched, as was his locker, and no drugs were found.

The Handling of the Incidents

None of the incidents were documented by the KWPD SRO David Hall when they occurred.  Hall was ordered to create reports on the gun incidents, after the fact, by Chief Donie Lee. Click here to see those reports.

Aside from some school administrators’ “field notes” no official records exist that tie the student associated with real guns and accusations of drug activity to any of the incidents described.

The student’s parents deny they were notified or spoken to by the SRO about the image showing their child photographing himself with a real revolver. [They say they learned about it from a friend and “dealt with it as a family.”]

It appears that the two Vice Principals who were investigating the accusation that the student had brought a real gun to school in his backpack on January 16, 2018 were not told of the previous death-threat image involving the same student – which might have helped put things into context.

“It does not appear that SRO Hall ever conveyed any information regarding the prior incident involving the image to HOB during their investigation of [the gun in backpack] incident.” [Weber, page 6]

The School and the Police Department React Differently

KWPD Chief Donie Lee decided to terminate David Hall’s employment and though he maintains that there has always been a policy to document the incidents in question he has issued a “clear directive as to documentation of student complaints and coordination with the relevant school administration.”

The School District’s position appears to be that the death threat image was just a “joke” they didn’t need to know about, the drug complaint was unfounded and that the witness, who to this day claims he saw a real gun in the student’s backpack last January, must have been confused.

HOB Principal, Christina McPherson, claims that all protocols that deal with these types of issues have been followed. No action has been announced by school administrators to either discipline, monitor, or support the student in question.

Lingering questions

HOB has yet to respond to The Blue Paper’s February 9, 2018 public records request for a copy of the District’s “policies and protocols” that address these situations.

The fact that neither KWPD superiors, HOB parents, nor school guidance counselors were alerted to the death threat “joke” or the accusations regarding a real gun at an after-school event could mean that those mysterious school policies are either inadequate or were not enforced. Principal McPherson told Weber that it was well within policy for the SRO to keep the death threat image information to himself.

There has been a claim that the student who sent the death threat “joke” image was given a pass because of his family connections, while the expulsion of the bright orange and green toy gun student might have been tainted with prejudice. The school justifies the apparent differential treatment by pointing to its “zero tolerance” policy on guns, toy guns included.

Yet Florida Statute 1006.13 [“zero tolerance policy”] specifically recommends against student expulsion for minor acts [such as playing with a bright orange and green cap gun on school grounds].

“The Legislature finds that zero-tolerance policies are not intended to be rigorously applied to petty acts of misconduct and misdemeanors, including, but not limited to, minor fights or disturbances. The Legislature finds that zero-tolerance policies must apply equally to all students regardless of their economic status, race, or disability…. School districts are encouraged to use alternatives to expulsion or referral to law enforcement agencies unless the use of such alternatives will pose a threat to school safety.”

So, does HOB really have such a rigid zero tolerance policy for students caught playing with bright orange and green toy cap guns or was prejudice and favoritism at play in the disparate treatment of these two students?

Interestingly, Weber noted that the toy gun student has now been reassigned back to his classes at HOB Middle School.

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Arnaud and Naja Girard
Arnaud and Naja Girard, owners and editors of the new, digital, Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) previously reported for the former Key West The Newspaper, Key West’s longest running independent weekly, published by Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D., from January 1994 until November 2012. The Girards are perhaps best known for their discovery of and extensive research surrounding the US Navy’s 1951 claim of ownership of Wisteria Island but are also responsible for top investigative stories including breaking news coverage of the highly controversial in-custody-death of Charles Eimers on Thanksgiving Day 2013, the catastrophic police tasing of Matthew Shawn Murphy, and the property tax scandal involving Balfour Beatty to name a few. Arnaud and Naja have lived in Key West since 1986.

  6 Responses to “SAO Report: Witness Swears He Saw a Real Gun in Student Backpack at HOB After-School Event”

  1. Let’s go back in time, to when KWPD killed suspected car dweller Charles Eimers and KWPD officer Gary Lee Lovette, and Key West Conch (born in Key West) made statements caught on his taser video, and statements reported by other people, which, to say the least, should have gotten Lovette prosecuted by the State Attorney – one, as I recall, was, “Me, I dropped like a fucking bomb on his head.” On Charles’ Eimer’s head, who face down on South Beach underneath several KWPD officers, after obeying their commands to lie down on the beach. Which led to Eimers smothering to death, which also was covered up and denied by KWPD and even the County Medical Examiner. Also.

    What happened to Gary Lee Lovette was, KWPD and the then State Attorney, and it was presented this way to the grand jury that State Attorney convened, was bragging, exaggerating, and what he said really did not happen, and the grand jury returned a no bill, and that ended that State Attorney’s involvement in that case, which the blue paper had broken with the aid of two independent bystander’s videos that made every officer involved, KWPD Chief Donie Lee, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and that State Attorney, look like a pack if liars.

    Gary Lee Lovett was suspended for a little while, with pay, as I recall, then he was back in action. Later, he did something and was fired, I don’t recall what he did, but it was trivial compared to coming down like a fucking bomb on Charles Eimer’s head.

    Now we have a determination that the HOB student was joking when he put the selfie of himself behind a loaded revolver on Snapshot. Sorry, in this America, where school massacres with guns are ripping America’s heart and soul to shreds. Sorry, there is NO RIGHT to joke in that way; and there is NO RIGHT to privacy if you put something like that onto social media.

    That this student did not even get a wrist slap by the school, while a student who brought a toy pistol to school was expelled, tells me that this is about who the family of the Snapshot terrorist is. If you knew who the family is, then you would know what is really going on. For this is a really well-connected white Conch family with really close ties with the Key West city government and KWPD.

    One other thing, for now.

    State Attorney Dennis Ward himself should have been interviewed by the Key West Citizen, and he should have explained to the Citizen’s readers why he decided not to prosecute the Snapshot terrorist. Ward’s Chief Investigator may be a seasoned investigator, but he is not a lawyer, and he was not the right person to make that call and explain it to the public in the Key West Citizen, which used his investigation report to make its article.

  2. State Attorney Dennis Ward,

    My research and investigation into the identified event, requires me to acknowledge the “nothing less” than Brilliant Leadership & Untiring Commitment you have for the safety of children attending Monroe County schools.

    Your detailed parallel investigation, in conjunction with Investigator Weber’s examination of the evidence, was a catalyst for all parties to arrive at an accurate deliberation of the facts.

    Mr. Ward, without your urging and involvement in this matter, a cover-up and distortion of key elements within this case would have continued and not found out.

    I know the superb work and sustained effort you put forth in arriving at your legal finding. Students, parents and teachers are well served by your devotional pledge and action to protect them.

    Naja & Arnaud, you’re the beacons of light braving the DARKNESS, forging a pathway to an accountable and transparent holding of those charged with the safety and well-being of all People…

    Love, Blessings & Respect…

  3. I’m relieved to see that Chris Weber and the SAO can be prodded into action with a big enough push. But there are still plenty of unresolved questions.

  4. Private Facebook chat this morning initiated with me by a Key West man, instigated by John Donnelly’s comment above:

    5:44AM

    Friend
    I just read your and John Donnelly’s remarks to The Blue Paper. I respect you both so much for speaking up. Regarding John’s sarcastic letter to Dennis Ward. I can’t help but believe Ward’s inaction is because he was ousted once from his job by pissing off the Bubbas and he’s determined to not let that happen again.

    I was so glad to see Catherine Vogel voted out but it appears we have another “do nothing” State Attorney who does nothing but provide cover for KWPD and the Bubbas on this island.

    Sloan
    I had not seen John Donnelly’s comment at the blue paper. Interesting, it has been my impression that John and Dennis Ward are friends. I spent an evening talking with John at a St. Patrick’s Day party, I think was the occasion, at Dennis’s home in 2015.

    Dennis called me after I published the name of the HOB Snapchat student’s father XXXXXXXX. Dennis said there is no Florida statute that would allow him to prosecute the HOB Snapshot student. The existing Florida law says the threat must be made to a school or a student, and that did not happen in this case. I told Dennis that, in all events, he should have explained his position himself in the Citizen article. As that article read, Dennis’s investigator is calling the shots in the State Attorney Office. I told Dennis there needs to be a follow up Citizen article, in which he does explain his position.

    Catherine Vogel needed to be voted out. She salted the grand jury she convened to investigate the KWPD killing Charles Eimers. She salted it in two ways. By using an expert witness who made a living by testifying in favor of law enforcement accused of wrongdoing, and by going along with the joke that KWPD officer Gary Lee Lovette did not mean all those things he was caught saying on his taser video and to other people, including, “Me, I came down on his head like a fucking bomb!”

    Dennis lost to Vogel in 2012, because he had prosecuted and convicted 2 white Key West Conchs, superintendent of schools XXXXXXXXX and the son of former city commissioner Harry Bethel. I think it’s fair to say that any state attorney who prosecutes and convicts a white Key West Conch will lose the Key West vote by a large enough margin to lose the election, because about 1/3 of the Florida Keys voters are in Key West.

    Be that as it may,so far, I’m the only publisher who has named the HOB Snapshot shooter’s father. And since I did that, page views at my website have been lower than usual. Last night, I got an interesting private Facebook chat message from a fearful local person I do not know, about an 11-year-old black student recently being charged with disorderly conduct by KWPD for using his hand to mimic a gun at school. My understanding is that the student who brought the cap gun to HOB was black, and he was expelled. I told Dennis Ward that whatever the law of Florida is, the school district gave the HOB Snapshot student a free pass because of who his father is.

    Friend
    I knew nothing about Vogel until she started behaving more like a defense attorney for KWPD than our State Attorney. I didn’t know if it was because she knew to not oppose the Bubbas or because her office has to work closely with KWPD and she didn’t want to piss them off. I do know she was not acting in the way she was elected to fulfill her position.

    I consider the Eimers murder to be the darkest time in my years here in Key West. There were 2 videos proving KWPD and FDLE of lying but even that was not enough for anything to be done to them. What was particularly irritating to me was when I saw the “Back The Blue” bumper stickers on city vehicles.

    Sloan
    The “Back The Blue” bump stickers were a counter to the bad publicity generated by the Charles Eimers case, which the blue paper somehow discovered and investigated and reported and turned the city upside down, but, not unexpectedly, nothing changed.

    When Dennis Ward called me, I told him that the name of the HOB Snapchat student’s father needed to be published in a different courtroom, the court of public opinion. I told Dennis, that right after I had been told the first time the name of the Snapchat student’s father, I was told in a dream that the father had given me a $20,000 promissory note and I knew that meant I was going to call that note. In my dream code, 2 is Jesus. I told Dennis that the way it goes, anytime I get involved in something, sooner or later any secret stuff will be made known to me, and it was a Divine Intervention that provided me with the name of the Snapchat student’s father. God wanted the father’s name published. I added, of course I cannot prove any of that, but it is true nonetheless.

    Friend
    I have to get ready for work but thank you for everything you do.

    Sloan
    I thought you already were at work. Oh, my bad. Work is something you do to get paid. 🙂