A 16-year-old Belleview High School student was arrested by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) after he allegedly threatened to conduct a school shooting in a video that he posted on Snapchat.
On Thursday, at approximately 7 p.m., multiple concerned residents contacted the sheriff’s office after locating a video on the Snapchat app. MCSO reviewed the video, which showed a teenager, later identified as Jesse Jacob Vargas, standing in a room.
In the video, Vargas stated, “I’m not going to lie, I’m tired of being stereotyped as a school shooter. I mean, if that’s what everybody wants…” As he finished speaking, he raised his hand to show a firearm.
According to MCSO, some of the residents who had viewed the video were able to identify Vargas and informed the sheriff’s office that he is a student at Belleview High School.
Deputies responded to Vargas’ residence and made contact with Vargas and his parents. After deputies showed the Snapchat video to his parents, they advised that Vargas only had access to an Airsoft gun that looked like an assault rifle.
During an interview with deputies, Vargas claimed that he had made the video as a skit, and he told the deputies that it “wasn’t serious.” He confirmed that the firearm he was holding in the video was an Airsoft gun, and deputies collected it for evidence.
Vargas was arrested, transported to Marion County Jail, and then brought to the Department of Juvenile Justice. He is being charged with making an electronic threat to conduct a mass shooting.
“Over 30 of my citizens called in after seeing this video that caused fear for the safety of children at Belleview High,” stated Sheriff Billy Woods. “We thank you, because when you saw something, you said something, and with your help we were able to quickly locate Vargas and take him into custody.”
Sheriff Woods added, “To my young citizens, you need to know that the law is clear: If you make a social media post that people reasonably interpret as a threat to commit a mass shooting, or to kill or harm another person, you have broken the law. And if you break the law like this, you should expect to be arrested.”