from the i'd-say-everyone's-familiar-with-this-song,-but... dept
So, it's come to this: the heightened paranoia surrounding all things kid- and school-related, post-Newtown (but also post- other school shootings as well) has managed to turn nearly everything into a potential menace. It's one thing to be cautious and alert for warning signs or veiled threats. It's quite another to turn a recorded rendition of the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme into a police matter.
Here's how this bit of insanity went down, as delivered by Gideon of A Public Defender. (You may remember Gideon as the Twitterer whose curiosity about a certain unenforceable statement kicked off the Teri Buhl fiasco.):
First, from the increasingly stupid United States of America, a story of how a teen’s life got flip-turned upside down. You see, he was just on the playground where he spent most of his days, minding his own business. You know, chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool and sometimes with this friends he liked to be shooting some b-ball outside of the school.A few things to note:
WAIT. DID HE JUST SAY SHOOT AND SCHOOL IN THE SAME SENTENCE? ARREST HIM! Once you’re done laughing, know that that’s exactly what happened to 19-year old Travis Clawson because a doctor’s office called his voicemail to confirm an appointment, heard the above line, thought he was shooting people outside the school and called cops. Who arrested him first, then spent the 20 seconds it takes to realize it’s the theme song from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. No word on whether Carlton showed up to dance and everyone laughed at him.
1. This was the teen's voicemail greeting. It wasn't as if he was calling the school and making threats. It's highly doubtful that criminals (or aspiring criminals) are leaving records of their future exploits as voicemail greetings. Gideon doesn't seem convinced this is a thing.
Also: is this a thing now? People leave notes of their criminal intent as voicemail messages? "Hi, you've reached my cellphone. I'm unavailable right now because I'm robbing that Stop-n-Go on Orchard and Willard. Leave me a message and I'll get back to you when I get out in 5-20 years because I'm stupid enough to leave --- BEEP."2. The police arrested the student for something that took likely less than a minute to explain. Couldn't this have been handled with a little in-person questioning, rather than escalating the situation immediately by arresting first, questioning second? I understand that the word "b-ball" could possibly be misheard as "people" and the receptionist probably did the right thing by notifying law enforcement, but it still seems as though this could all have been sorted out in a five minute discussion.
3. This isn't noted in Gideon's commentary, but the police had the teen's school (along with the rest of the district) go into lockdown mode while they searched for the Will Smith-quoting "gunman." From there, it gets even more ridiculous:
The call to 911 forced the entire district into lockdown for about 30 minutes and police said they detained the 19-year-old student for three hours while searching his locker, before determining that it was all one big misunderstanding.Never mind what I said about point 2. I know it's often said that we should "err on the side of caution," but, seriously, three hours to "search a locker?" Obviously, no one bothered asking the teen anything about the message until they ran about 2:50 off the clock.
Officer Mike Natale says, "[The teen] was afraid and embarrassed." No kidding. I would imagine more of the first than the second. Three hours being detained by police while under lockdown and not being given any hint as to what started the whole debacle would make anyone, possibly even an actual criminal, "afraid."
In wxpi.com's story, the police officer states that the teen "had learned from his mistake" (towards the end of the video). Really? What mistake? There are plenty of mistakes in this story, but a teen recording one of the most well-known TV theme songs as an outgoing voicemail message isn't one of them.