Student Arrested And Charged With 'Terrorizing' For Shooting Classmates... With An iPhone App

from the reportedly,-assailant-also-made-'pew-pew-pew'-noises-with-his-mouth dept

Much like non-terroristic threats are now the new terroristic threats, in today's climate of zero tolerance policies, fake weapons have become the new real weapons. Pop tart bitten into a vaguely gun-ish shape? That's a weapon. Fingers clasped together in a gun-like fashion? That's a weapon. Drawing of a gun? That's a weapon. And now, virtual, video-game, only-appear-on-a-powered-up-iPhone guns? Those are weapons.

In a story that sounds as absolutely made-up and ridiculous as the name of the high school at which it occurred (which I would love to believe is a mashup of H.L. Mencken and the upper middle class twits he would have tweaked bitterly and mercilessly), a student has been arrested for "shooting" his classmates with an augmented reality app. NO. I AM SERIOUS.

A student at H. L. Bourgeois High School accused of using a mobile phone app to simulate shooting his classmates was booked and jailed in Terrebonne Parish.
There's no part of that preceding sentence that isn't mind-flayingly ridiculous. Want to see how lifelike this "simulation" is? Here's some "exciting" video of the app (Real Strike) in action.

If you'll note, the other mall patrons don't seem the least bit alarmed that someone is firing off round after virtual round at them with an iPhone. In fact, everyone looks completely unaware, not to mention unscathed. I suppose it might be a bit more unsettling if this were uploaded and publicly viewable [oh wait...], but the emphasis is on "a bit." Unless you're Major Malcolm Wolfe of the Terrebonne Sheriff's Department.
[Major Malcolm] Wolfe's office says a 15-year-old was arrested after posting a video on YouTube using the Real Strike app to shoot other kids at school, “He said it was a result of him being frustrated and tired of being bullied. He said that he had no intentions of hurting anybody. We have to take all threats seriously and we have no way of knowing that without investigating and getting to the bottom of it.”

He says the student was arrested for terrorizing and interference of the operation of a school.
Wolfe says "investigating," but nothing else in his statements indicates any sort of investigation has taken place. As for the charges, they seem disproportionate, to say the least. No one was terrorized or interfered with while the video was being recorded. After the video was uploaded, there still wasn't much "terrorizing" or "interfering" occurring. People were being not being physically shot by an arsenal of fake weapons contained entirely within a kid's cell phone, nor were they being threatened in any specific sense. Just because it was (temporarily) uploaded to YouTube doesn't suddenly make the "shooting" more "real."

Here's the actual wording for Louisiana's "terrorizing" statute, not much of which seems to fit the student's actions.
§40.1. Terrorizing

A. Terrorizing is the intentional communication of information that the commission of a crime of violence is imminent or in progress or that a circumstance dangerous to human life exists or is about to exist, with the intent of causing members of the general public to be in sustained fear for their safety; or causing evacuation of a building, a public structure, or a facility of transportation; or causing other serious disruption to the general public.

B. It shall be an affirmative defense that the person communicating the information provided for in Subsection A of this Section was not involved in the commission of a crime of violence or creation of a circumstance dangerous to human life and reasonably believed his actions were necessary to protect the welfare of the public.

C. Whoever commits the offense of terrorizing shall be fined not more than fifteen thousand dollars or imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than fifteen years, or both.
That's a whole lot of time served and a hefty fine for playing an iPhone game. It's going to be pretty hard for a prosecutor to make this stick as none of the above really applies to the teen's actions. Some concerned parents contacted the authorities after viewing the video, but it's hard to believe the student's actions resulted in creating "sustained fear" or a "serious disruption." The school wasn't evacuated or put on lock down so other than someone in administration overreacting (and there's no details suggesting anyone has), there's really no "interference" there.

But I guess this all depends on whether the prosecutor is as easily moved to overreaction as the Sheriff's Department is. Wolfe sounds overly worried. Let's hope that's not contagious.
“You can’t ignore it,” says Major Malcolm Wolfe. “We don’t know at what time that game becomes reality.”
I don't know, Maj. Wolfe, but I'll try to guess. It becomes reality when the student has access to 25 military-grade weapons? Or access to any weapons? The willingness and ability to actually gun down his classmates with real weapons? His parents stated their son didn't have access to any guns. But still: safety.

Here's the money quote, the one that indicates that "safety" means overreacting.
“With all the school shooting (sic) we’ve had in the United States, it’s just not a very good game to be playing at this time,” according to Wolfe.
With all the school shootings? As a member of law enforcement, it might do Wolfe some good to exchange his hysteria for facts. The number of mass shootings (school or otherwise) isn't rising. Just because something happened recently doesn't mean it's increasing and just because you want to arrest a kid for exercising a little non-violent catharsis doesn't make this belief any more true.

And for all the tough talk by school districts and other authority figures about fighting bullying, it's the bullied kid who ends up in cuffs. Nice one, Team Safety First.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2013 @ 5:45am

    "A. Terrorizing is the intentional communication of information that the commission of a crime of violence is imminent or in progress or that a circumstance dangerous to human life exists or is about to exist, with the intent of causing members of the general public to be in sustained fear for their safety; [...]"

    Wouldn't this mean that whenever the government tells the public about terrorist threats, that should be considered terrorizing?

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