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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

11-year-old arrested for hoax school shooter call at Horizon Academy

An 11-year-old Horizon Academy at Marion Oaks student was arrested after he allegedly called 911 and falsely reported that a shooter was on campus, prompting a school-wide lockdown.

At around 9:40 a.m. on Tuesday, December 5, Marion County Public Safety workers received a call from a student at Horizon Academy at Marion Oaks who reported that there was a shooter in the school’s hallways.

A large police presence including specialty units from MCSO and other local law enforcement agencies responded to Horizon Academy (365 Marion Oaks Drive in Ocala). After an extensive search throughout the school, MCSO stated that “law enforcement did not locate an armed assailant or weapons.” In addition, there were no injuries reported.

The lockdown at the school was lifted. All students and staff were accounted for, and they returned to their classrooms.

MCSO detectives began investigating the 911 call to determine who made the false report. Below is a transcript of that 911 call:

911 Operator: “911, what’s the address of the emergency?”

Caller: “Help, there is a school shooter walking through the hallway.”

911 Operator: “What school?”

Caller: “Um, Marion Oaks.”

911 Operator: “What hallway are you in?”

Caller: “Building two.”

911 Operator: “Marion Oaks Elementary or Marion Oaks High School?”

911 Operator: “Hello, can you hear me? Which school, Marion Oaks Elementary—”

Caller: “He’s coming, he’s coming.”

*Line Disconnects*

During the investigation into the 911 call, an MCSO detective determined that the phone that was used belonged to a student at the school. That student was interviewed and “adamantly denied” calling 911, according to MCSO.

The student further advised that he had left his cellphone in his backpack during a trip to the school’s clinic. A School Resource Officer reviewed surveillance footage from the school hallway, which showed the student walking through the hallway without his phone or backpack at the exact time that the 911 call was made. The sheriff’s office stated that this ruled the student out as the person who had called 911.

The student who owned the cellphone advised that an 11-year-old boy in his class was likely “the only student” who knew where his phone was located. MCSO stated that multiple people listened to the 911 call and identified the 11-year-old as the caller.

According to MCSO, the 11-year-old boy had made statements to other students about wanting to “go to the clinic” so his parents could “pick him up early from school.”

The detective made contact with the 11-year-old and his parents, but they refused to speak with law enforcement without an attorney present.

The 11-year-old boy was arrested on Wednesday, December 6 for false report of a mass shooting, utilizing a two-way communication device to commit a felony, disruption of a school function, and misuse of 911. He was transported to Marion County Jail.

“This student put fear into his fellow students, staff, and parents,” stated Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods. “And for what? A prank? Because you wanted to go home? I will not tolerate my young citizens being fearful of going to school because you wanted to be a ‘jokester’ in hopes of going home.”

Sheriff Woods added, “The law requires that any person who makes these types of false reports pay restitution for the cost of the law enforcement response which, in this case, will equal hundreds upon hundreds of man-hours. This young man is going to need to mow a lot of lawns to pay that bill.”