Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly with Superintendent LaShakia Moore at this evening's press conference. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly with Superintendent LaShakia Moore at this evening's press conference. (© FlaglerLive)
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly with Superintendent LaShakia Moore at this evening’s press conference. (© FlaglerLive)

A 14-year-old adolescent was arrested by Daytona Beach police today and charged with making one call threatening to blow up Buddy Taylor Middle School in late morning today. Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said the threat is believed to be a copycat following a week of similar calls threatening to shoot up Flagler County schools, shoot cops who’d respond to the threats or detonate bombs.

The boy, Jaureion Seneca Paul Smith, was allegedly acting on a dare–by another student at Buddy Taylor Middle School. “It was kids being stupid, daring each other and another one taking action as a result,” Staly said.

Staly announced the arrest in a hastily arranged press conference this evening at the Sheriff’s Operations Center. Buddy Taylor has been the target of most of the threats, and has experienced significant absenteeism this week, Superintendent LaShakia Moore said.

“I’m not going to say we’re held hostage,” Moore said, referring to the multiplied threats. “We’re going to respond appropriately to every threat that comes into our schools. But we’re going to continue to make our school days as normal as possible for our students.” That includes graduations and end-of-school events.

The sheriff said the call was determined to be a copycat because “the modus operandi was different on this call.” That means the investigations into the other calls continue.

The schools targeted by the threats this week were Buddy Taylor Middle School, Old Kings Elementary and First Baptist Academy in Bunnell, a private Christian school. Each time, the Sheriff’s Office dispatched from seven to 24 patrol units and conducted extensive searches of campuses, with bomb-sniffing dogs while students and faculty were on lockdowns or security versions similar to that, and emergency medical personnel stood by.

The threats, which the Sheriff’s Office likened to “swatting”–calling law enforcement with bogus claims of a deadly incident intentionally to provoke a massive police and public safety response–caused widespread turmoil for affected school communities, anxiety among parents, missed school days for students who were held back from school out of fear, and thousands of dollars in expended resources.

The copycat adolescent at mid-morning today called Buddy Taylor directly. The caller ID was labeled anonymous. “The school will be blown up at 11,” the caller said. It was 10:48 a.m. School staff initiated a school lockdown and notified the Sheriff’s Office. Some 19 units responded as did the real time crime center analyst, and others, with fire departments.

The call, Flagler County Sheriff’s investigators and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement determined, was made by Smith. He was located walking in the area of Derbyshire Avenue in Daytona Beach, holding the phone from which the call was made. He said a Buddy Taylor student dared him to call. He said he did it, not wanting “to be a punk” if he did not do it.

Staly had a message for the student who dared Smith: “Turn yourself in. Go to your parents. Tell them what you did, and turn yourself in, because we will find you next, because our investigation is continuing.”

He was arrested on one count of a false report of a bomb, one count of tampering evidence, and unlawful use of a two-way communication device, all third-degree felonies. If he is charged as an adult, that means up to five years in prison on each count.

“It has been a rough week, and our kids don’t deserve this,” Moore said. “I too appeal to the person who dared as well as to the original person to cut it out. Our kids don’t deserve it.”

The call was made from inside the city limits of Daytona Beach, leading that city’s police to arrest the boy once law enforcement in Flagler determined the source.

As for the instigator, Staly said “we have some information that we have not released tonight that we will use to continue that investigation.” That student would face a charge of conspiracy to commit the crimes.

But the investigations continue, with little releasable information. “I can talk about his one particular case where we made the arrest but I don’t want to give up any potential leads that we have because obviously, we want the other caller or callers also,” Staly said. “So I wish I could give you a more definitive answer on that but I don’t want to compromise the investigators ability to make more arrests.”

As to the Friday night press conference, the sheriff said: “I think it’s important to get the information out to our community so they can not only know how seriously we take it, and how we’re investigating these cases, but hopefully it will add some calmness to the community. Because like the superintendent said, this is an exciting time for our kids. Middle school kids are graduating, they’re going to high school starting next year. He said the once-in-a-lifetime event and memory should not be tarnished.

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