JoCo girl arrested for finger gun just a shy kid in court

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The slight 13-year-old who was charged with a felony for pointing her finger at 4 classmates and pretending to shoot them and then herself appeared in court on Tuesday in Overland Park.

Possibly that was a actual killer in the glasses and pink sweater, holding tight onto her grandpa, who in turn kept squeezing her shoulder to offer you reassurance. (“Always say, ‘Yes, your honor,’ ’’ he whispered at 1 point.)

But she positive did a fantastic impersonation of a shy small kid, shaking slightly as she stood just before the bench. When the judge talked about that the girl’s mom, who not too long ago moved to Norway, could join the subsequent hearing by telephone if that produced sense provided the time distinction, the girl raised her hand, as if in class, and waited for the judge to contact on her just before supplying in a little voice that Oslo is nine hours ahead of exactly where she’s been living these final weeks, with her grandfather in California.

If she’s not the perennially picked-on lover of kittens and gun manage that her family members has described, this spontaneous show of diffidence was a diabolically canny touch.

But that situation is about as convincing as Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez’ insistence that eighth graders at Westridge Middle College in the Shawnee Mission district are “generally in worry of this person.”

According to her mother, she’s been bullied for some time — punched in the face on the college bus, and left sobbing in the lunchroom. On Sept. 18, soon after a boy asked tauntingly which 5 men and women in the class she’d shoot if she could, she answered by pointing her finger at him, numerous other people, and ultimately herself: Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.

The subsequent day, somebody reported on the bullying tip line that she’d completely terrified her schoolmates with this gesture. Have been these whistleblowers the exact same bullies who’d provoked her in the very first location?

Either way, she ought to never ever have been place in handcuffs. You’d feel that turning a pretend gun on herself would have prompted a contact to counselors rather than cops.

The girl’s mother, Vanessa McCaron, says the school’s resource officer told her that “I will press charges against everyone who I feel has broken the law.”

According to court documents, the girl “unlawfully and feloniously communicated a threat to commit violence, with the intent to location a further in worry, or with the intent to lead to the evacuation, lock down or disruption in frequent, ongoing activities.” Chilling.

Donchez maintains that it is these of us who see the police action as excessive who have acted also hastily when we ought to have just trusted that they know most effective.

Only, charging her with a felony never ever produced any sense. If police and prosecutors seriously discover her as menacing as they’ve recommended she is in defending the sort of get-a-load-of-this overreaction that keeps Fox News in small business, then why did they offer you her a likelihood to apply for diversion at Tuesday’s hearing?

Thank goodness they did, as an alternative of placing her in detention for a year to prove a point. But 1 danger of getting cops in schools is that they can have a tendency to see all sorts of kid issues by way of a criminalizing, law enforcement lens.

And if college resource officers arrested every single student who did one thing a further middle schooler saw as threatening, criminal justice reform would have no likelihood at all.

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Melinda Henneberger is a columnist and member of The Star’s editorial board. She has covered crime, regional and state government, hospitals, social solutions, prisons and national politics. For 10 years, she was a reporter for The New York Instances in New York, Washington, D.C. and Rome. In 2019, she was a Pulitzer finalist for commentary and received the Mike Royko Award for Commentary and Column Writing from the News Leaders Association.

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