A Florida high school teacher has reportedly been put on administrative leave by Polk County Public Schools after allegedly telling his students that he would be an effective school shooter. The alleged comments were made during a lockdown drill at the school.
Lakeland Police Det. Justin Conatser wrote in a petition for a risk protection order that the teacher in question, who is a veteran, told students while they were huddled in a corner during a lockdown drill that he would make the best school shooter because he “would plant (improvised explosive devices) … fire a couple of rounds and wait for everyone to hide, then press a button, and boom everyone would die.”
The teacher, who is named Keith Cook, also allegedly said that if he were a school shooter, then he would have a “1000 person body count” and “be a hero.” He also allegedly said he would plant a bomb exactly where the students were trying to hide.
“Cook said he would personally place a bomb in the corner the students were in … He (went) on to elaborate that he would put nails in the bomb to get everyone in the class,” one student reportedly said in a statement to police.
The comments were reportedly made during an August 16 lockdown drill at the school and at least 16 students have provided statements to police.
The teacher was taken to a mental health facility following the comments under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows for the involuntary institutionalization of an individual displaying violent tendencies.
The teacher claims he was joking, but that did not help his case with police.
“I asked [him] why in the world would he want a school shooter to do a better job?” Conatser wrote in his petition. “He shook his head and said that he, in fact, would not want that now.”
Conatser also wrote that he told the teacher that his position meant he should “be looked at as the person who will protect the students and not make them question whether their teacher is looking to harm them.”
“Parents and students should be assured that we take any potential threat against our students and schools seriously,” Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said in a public statement originally given to The Ledger. “Student safety is — and always will be — paramount within our school district.”
An investigation into the alleged incident is ongoing and the teacher is set to appear in court on August 30 for a hearing on the protection order.
According to The Ledger, Cook is 51-years-old and has been teaching for at least a decade. He is a former Marine. Police searched Cook’s car and home following the alleged comments and found no weapons.
The incident is only the latest example of police stepping up to act on potential red flags in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
A 15-year-old Florida high school student was recently arrested for posting in an online gaming platform that he was going to take his father’s gun and shoot at least seven people in his school. The comment was reported to the FBI and the police eventually found the student’s address and arrested him.
A Florida high school student was accused of posting a message online saying he would "vow to bring my fathers m15 to school and kill 7 people at a minimum." Deputies released video of the arrest where they explain how serious the threat was.
— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) August 20, 2019
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