A college student from Michigan is facing felony terrorist charges after sending a photo of an AR-15 to friends, and joking about how the gun would "make the snowflakes melt."
What are the details?
Lucas Gerhard, 20, shared the image of him touting the firearm with a private group of friends on Snapchat on Aug. 22, the night before he was scheduled to return to Lake Superior State University for the fall semester, according to the College Fix.
"Takin this bad boy up, this outta make the snowflakes melt, aye? And I mean snowflakes as in snow," a caption for the image read.
He was planning to bring his new gun to school because LSSU allows student to bring guns onto the campus. Students can store them in a guarded armory while they attend classes during the semester.
But when a young woman outside of the Snapchat group was shown the image, she perceived it as threatening. She took a screenshot of the image and reported it to school authorities, who in turn alerted local law enforcement.
When Gerhard arrived on campus for the fall semester, he was arrested on a felony charge of terrorism and his bond bail set for $250,000. He ended up spending 83 days in jail before he could be bailed out in mid-November.
Now, Gerhard is under house arrest at his father's home and awaits a potential jury trial in April where he faces up to 20 years in prison.
'Extreme political views'
In a copy of the search warrant used by police during Gerhard's arrest, obtained by the College Fix, the probable cause for the warrant cites one student's testimony of Gerhard's "extreme political views," but did not go into any further detail. Gerhard reportedly holds conservative political beliefs.
According to the Associated Press, Gerhard told an officer that the term "snowflake" referred to people whose political ideology is liberal and that making the snowflakes "melt" referred to their emotional reaction at his bringing an AR-15 to school. He insisted that he did not intend to harm anyone and was studying to become a police officer himself.
He was arrested anyway, despite his explanation.
The AP reported that public safety officers at the school said "they had numerous prior incidents and contacts with Gerhard, including when an anonymous tip was made to downstate law enforcement warning that he was a potential school shooter," but no more information was given.
The young woman who saw the image and reported Gerhard allegedly had "political arguments" with him before. Gerhard's father, Mark Gerhard, confirmed that his son is a conservative at a liberal school and is outspoken about his beliefs, but said that he is "never vindictive about anything, never antagonistic."
Gerhard's father added that he was "in disbelief" over the incident. "I couldn't believe the prosecutor had actually decided to press charges," he said.
Oddly enough, Gerhard's father noted in conversation with the College Fix, "There was no contact by law enforcement until approximately 4-5 hours after his arrival on campus. This is well after he checked in his rifle and ammunition, received his room key and a building pass that opened virtually every door on campus."
He argued that if school officials really believed his son to be a threat, they would have asked police to arrest him much earlier.
Michigan lawmakers come to his defense
After news of the incident broke, Michigan lawmakers moved to redefine the state's terrorism law.
Republican state Rep. John Reilly blasted the arrest and the leniency of the law that allowed officers to detain Gerhard.
"I never thought our society was so fragile that someone's life could be ruined for telling a joke among friends," Reilly said. "It's a travesty that the county prosecutor charged him with any crime, for something that is clearly and undeniably protected speech under the First Amendment."
In a phone call with the College Fix, Michigan state Rep. Beau LaFave expressed his concern over how law enforcement and the judiciary had operated in this case.
"I think in this particular instance it's pretty clear that an individual at LSSU exercised his First Amendment right to talk about his Second Amendment right and the police, the university and everybody involved made grievous mistakes in charging him with a 20 year terrorism felony. And I think it's disturbing to have de facto red flag laws implemented by the police, the judge, the prosecutor and the university when he broke, to my knowledge, no laws," LaFave said.