Highland teen charged with Columbine-like threat

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — A 14-year-old Highland Township boy who allegedly threatened to “shoot up” Milford High like Columbine was denied bond after an assistant prosecutor testified the teen admitted emotional problems and a fascination with Nazi Germany, and posted computer messages under the Internet nickname “Adolph Hitler.”

The teen appeared before Oakland Circuit Referee Karla Mallett Monday for a detention hearing on computer threats, which for adult offenders would carry up to 20 years in prison.

Mallett said there was probable cause to believe the teenager was responsible for the threats and ordered him held in Children’s Village. A preliminary hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. March 9 before Probate Judge Elizabeth Pezzetti on charges he made a false report of a threat of terrorism and used of a computer in committing a crime.

“Do I feel these offenses rise to the level of endangering the public? Yes,” Mallett said. “ ... This type of offense is the most serious when it comes to a school setting. ... It’s not a laughing matter anymore and somehow juveniles have to realize this.”

The slight, bookish-looking teenager sat quietly throughout the brief hearing, in leg shackles and belly chains, hunched over, his head bowed and the collar of an orange jail-provided coat turned up at the back.

As he was escorted out of the hearing room by deputies, his parents whispered to him: “Stay strong, buddy. We love you.”

The Milford High freshman was taken into custody Saturday night after school employees reported he posted threatening messages of a pending shooting at the school on the social media site kik.com.

Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Anthony Marek told Mallett the teen was found playing “violent video games” when taken into custody, and had told friends he was going to “Columbine” the school.

Marek said investigators found the teen was “an enthusiast of Nazi Germany” and the Third Reich and used the nickname Adolph Hitler on sites accompanied by “two icons of flames” and an image of the former German dictator during World War II.

Marek said the teen displayed many of the same traits of those involved in tragic school shootings and other acts of violence.

“He is a self-described loner and told a detective he suffers from depression and anxiety,” Marek said. The “triggering event” in making the threats may have been a recent breakup with a girlfriend, he said. The teen had been making threats about an incident at the school for two weeks, Marek said.

The teen, he said, had access to nine handguns and long guns, all weapons registered to his father.

“Some were secured, some not,” Marek said of the firearms, all seized from the home.

“He may say he did not intend to commit offenses that he threatened,” Marek said. “But this (custody) is in the interest of public safety. If Columbine shooters had been questioned before they acted, they probably would have said the same thing.”

Marek said school officials have said while there may be future legalities involved, they would prefer he not return to the school.

The teen’s attorney, Scott Grabel, did not dispute his client made the threats but told Mallett there was no “furthering” of them. He said other matters being discussed were exaggerated, including that the teen was found playing a popular video game called “Call of Duty.”

“I play violent video games ... everyone plays violent games,” Grabel told Mallett, downplaying Marek’s concerns.

While the teen may have had access to some firearms, his attorney said, all ammunition was locked up.

Grabel said he agreed going back to school at this time might not be appropriate but felt if his client was released from Children’s Village, conditions could be made to restrict his movements, including wearing a GPS tether.

“I don’t see any pattern here,” Grabel said. “I don’t see him as off the rails. I don’t think he should go back to school until it is determined what the nature of threats is.”

This is the second Internet school threat incident in Oakland County in three months.

In December, Jacob Michael Young, 17, a Brandon High School student, was charged as an adult with making a terrorist threat and using of a computer to commit a crime in the posting of threats on a app used by faculty, students and their families.

Young of Ortonville posted threatening messages and photos on an After School app vowing an incident “bigger than Columbine” at Brandon High.

Young faces up to 20 years in prison. His attorney, Deanna Kelley, said he had been the target of bullying and racist comments at school.

Young pleaded guilty as charged Dec. 8 and is to be sentenced March 4 by Oakland Circuit Judge Wendy Potts.


(248) 338-0319