A Texas middle school student faces criminal charges after causing the school to go on lockdown last Friday by pointing his cellphone at other students as if it was a gun, according to KTVT-TV.
Witnesses told police in Mesquite, Texas, that they saw a person approaching them from outside the school pointing something at them.
Fearing the person had a gun, the witnesses ran into the school and reported what they saw, causing police to order a lockdown of Terry Middle School.
Reports to police were exaggerated, as police received word of a gun and gunfire, neither of which actually occurred.
Police identified the student responsible, and he admitted that he was pointing his cellphone at the students in an attempt to alarm them.
The student was charged with threatening to exhibit a firearm, because he violated a law that applies specifically to schools or school buses.
Depending on whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, the punishment ranges from one to 10 years in jail.
“Just kidding around holding your hand like a gun pointed toward somebody if that person is in fear of what you might do in the future … they could be in violation of this, and so all of our kids need to know that they need to be careful about what they do,” Mesquite Police Lt. Brian Parrish told KTVT.
A dangerous prank?
The cellphone incident at Terry Middle School came just days after police shot and killed 22-year-old Stephon Clark in Sacramento, California, after the officers pursuing the suspect thought his cellphone was a gun. In some ways, that incident illustrates the dangers of pranks like the one in Mesquite.
“Law enforcement cannot take a chance and simply assume you’re waving a cellphone or a plastic gun,” Parrish said.