A 13-year-old Kansas girl has been charged with a felony after she allegedly made a “finger gun” at her middle school last month.
The unidentified student was arrested on Sept. 18 after police say “she made a threat at Westridge Middle School with her finger,” WDAF-TV reported. According to the Kansas City Star, the girl “formed a gun with her fingers, pointed at four of her … classmates one at a time, and then turned the pretend weapon toward herself.”
“No actual weapon [was] found…it was a finger pointed like a gun,” Shawnee Mission School District spokesperson David Smith told WDAF.
However, that did not stop the school resource officer, employed by the Overland Park Police Department, from arresting the child and the Johnson County district attorney from filing felony charges against her.
In court documents, authorities allege the girl “unlawfully and feloniously communicated a threat to commit violence, with the intent to place another, in fear, or with the intent to cause the evacuation, lock down or disruption in regular, ongoing activities.”
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A person familiar with a more detailed incident report spoke to The Star on condition of anonymity. The person said that during a class discussion, another student asked the girl, if she could kill five people in the class, who would they be? In response, the girl allegedly pointed her finger pistol — like the ones many children use playing cops and robbers.
Because of that gesture, The Star was told, the girl was sent to Principal Jeremy McDonnell’s office, and the other students involved were also talked to. The school resource officer recommended that she be arrested, the source said. She was detained by police and later released to her mother.
In an interview with WDAF, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe defended the charges.
“If someone makes a direct threat to another person to do harm to another person, that is considered criminal threat and that would be a felony,” he said.
When asked if felony charges against the young girl were excessive, Howe cited the Parkland high school massacre in Florida last year, explaining authorities have to exercise an abundance of caution.
“I think law enforcement and schools understand that we need to address bad behavior,” Howe said. “Not be heavy-handed but at the same time, address that bad behavior and prevent it from getting worse.”
The girl is set to appear in the juvenile division of the Johnson County District Court next week.
For its part, the school district is distancing itself from the decision to arrest the student and charge her with a serious crime.
“I want to be very clear: The arrest of this student was wholly unrelated to any district policy,” Smith told KSHB-TV. “It was a municipal police department decision, and our policies don’t impact police department decisions.”