A civil rights group is opposing a Florida sheriff who arrested a 10-year-old boy for allegedly threatening to shoot at an elementary school just days after the fatal shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said in a news release that the fifth-grader’s May 28 arrest was part of an effort to maintain “law and order in our schools.” “. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office released multiple images of the student and his name after the arrest. The boy’s family may take legal action against Marceno for what they say is brutal treatment for political purposes, with the help of the group Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR).
“Sheriff Marceno applies his policing program indiscriminately,” Letitia Kim, FAIR’s director of legal affairs, told CBS affiliate WINK in a report released Thursday. “There was no threat of any kind and it unfortunately had very serious, tragic and permanent consequences.”
The boy, who attends Patriot Elementary School in Cape Coral, was charged with making written threats of a mass shooting. Police say he threatened to carry out a mass shooting in a series of text messages to a friend. Kim said the boy’s posts didn’t contain any sort of threat, but did include Google images of assault rifles.
The boy remains in juvenile detention and is due to appear in court on June 13. Despite the charges of an actual crime, Marceno apparently felt the text messages constituted a “false threat” at the time of the arrest.
“Right now is not the time to act like a petty criminal,” Marceno said in a May 28 statement. “It’s not funny. This kid made a false threat, and now he’s facing real consequences.”
A 22-second video of the boy being led by an officer with his hands behind his back, which was posted on Facebook alongside Marceno’s statement shortly after the arrest, sparked backlash.
“It’s bananas,” wrote one Facebook user in response to the video. “When people talk about defunding the police, here’s why. The sheriff has already determined the threat to be false but has made the choice to stick his name and image on social and traditional media. None of this makes anyone more sure.”
The boy’s father reportedly insisted no threats were made and said he was concerned that law enforcement‘s ‘poor judgement’ could have put his son ‘in danger’.
In response to criticism for sharing the 10-year-old’s “perp walk” and unblurred photo, Marceno told Fox affiliate WFTX he was “not being upset because a very small percentage is upset to show a 10-year-old face or the culprit walks.”
“He called himself the law and order sheriff many times,” Kim said of Marceno. “And he says his platform is ‘fake threat, real consequences’, but I think what we have here is a distorted mix of that, which is fake law and order, real consequences.”
Marceno defended his actions in comments to WINK, saying the way the arrest was handled was “not for political purposes.”
“I believe in one thing, and that’s law and order,” the sheriff said. “I believe that at the end of the day it was my absolute responsibility when I took office, which has always been my top priority, safe children, safe schools. Now, if the father or someone others think it’s political gain, that’s their belief.”
In a statement to NewsweekFAIR founder and chairman Bion Bartning called for Marceno’s resignation and said the group was working to reunite the boy, identified as “Daniel”, with his family.
“We believe that in these dangerous times, no real threat should go unaddressed,” Bartning said. “But in this case, the ‘threat’ to an innocent 10-year-old boy was invented by Mr. Marceno, an attention-seeking politician who doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong.”
“We are working hard to restore Daniel’s civil rights and return him to the arms of his loving family,” Bartning added. “And Mr. Marceno, having proven himself unfit for the role of sheriff of Lee County, should resign.”
Newsweek contacted the Lee County Sheriff’s Office for comment.
Update 6/10/22, 4:18 PM ET: This article has been updated with additional news and information.