Girl gets 1-year probation for threats against school
A Palisade teenager was ordered Wednesday to serve 12 months probation for gun threats against Mount Garfield Middle School.
A defense lawyer suggested the incident was fallout from episodes of bullying by peers at school.
Shauntelle Wilson, 13, was also ordered by Magistrate William McNulty to complete 80 hours of useful public service after pleading guilty to a lone count of interference with staff, faculty or students at an educational institution, a misdemeanor.
Among other terms, the judge ordered that Wilson must submit to a formal threat assessment if she’s accepted to enroll at a public or private school in Colorado. Wilson has been expelled by School District 51, the judge noted. She was also ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and is prohibited from possessing weapons. McNulty said Wilson’s lack of prior adjudications, her young age and her cooperation with Mesa County Sheriff’s deputies after her arrest on Dec. 15 made Wilson an appropriate candidate for probation.
McNulty noted Wilson was jailed at Grand Mesa Youth Services Center for six days before being released on a personal-recognizance bond.
“If this was done for attention, you certainly got more than you bargained for,” McNulty addressed the tearful teenager, who read a prepared apology.
“I never meant for this to spiral out of control,” she said. “I apologize if I scared anybody.”
In the end, investigators never found a handgun reportedly seen by witnesses in a post made on Wilson’s Facebook account around Dec. 12 or Dec. 13. Wilson’s Facebook account has since been deleted. Public Defender Kara Smith claimed the post — which was said to show a handgun resting on the girl’s backpack — never happened and that her client never had a gun. Chief Deputy District Attorney Trish Mahre said Facebook officials told law enforcement they couldn’t retrieve the photo in question without first knowing the specific device used to post it.
Witnesses are nonetheless sure about what they saw, the prosecutor said.
“It’s concerning because several kids saw the post,” Mahre said.
According to the affidavit, Mount Garfield Middle School Assistant Principal Rocio Roybal met with school resource officers around 2:50 p.m. on Dec. 14 after two students reported Wilson’s Facebook post showed a gun.
“(Student) advised there were people commenting on the post telling her that was not a smart thing to do,” the affidavit said. “(Student) stated the caption on the picture stated, ‘I have a gun in my backpack.’ “
A gun emoji appeared at the end of the comment, the affidavit said.
Another student told authorities he saw a Facebook post around 1 p.m. Dec. 13 by Wilson, claiming to have a gun, the affidavit said. Wilson also posted, “I’m done.”
Some of the same witnesses told authorities Wilson on Dec. 14 was walking around a classroom with a jacket draped over her left arm.
She reportedly walked out of her seventh-period class after announcing, ‘I’m gonna go shoot up the school now,’ ” the affidavit said.
On Wednesday, Wilson’s defense aired claims the teenager had experienced episodes of bullying at school.
Smith, Wilson’s public defender, told the judge she was present when her client disclosed “heartbreaking” episodes about her time at school. Wilson broke down when discussing the events, Smith told the judge.
The lawyer described Wilson as a “victim” in the case.
“Some of the young people who are lodging these allegations are the same young people who have bullied or teased her,” Smith told the judge. “Clearly, Shauntelle did not respond in the best way.”
Law enforcement told another story Wednesday. Mesa County Sheriff’s Sgt. Wayne Weyler, who runs the Sheriff’s Office’s school resource officer program, told The Daily Sentinel Wednesday that Wilson was disciplined by school administration during the fall semester for engaging in alleged acts of bullying against others.
Weyler said he’s also aware of episodes during the 2014-15 school year when Wilson was targeted with what he called “name-calling.”
In response to a Daily Sentinel query, District 51 issued a statement Wednesday saying federal privacy laws prohibited comment on the issue.
Smith on Wednesday maintained her client was never in possession of a gun, despite statements attributed to Wilson in her arrest affidavit. According to the affidavit, Wilson admitted she had taken a photo with the gun and backpack. The affidavit also says Wilson advised the gun was on school grounds for a period of time, but later retracted the claim.
Smith accused deputies of engaging in coercive tactics on the night of Dec. 14.
The 13-year-old was questioned in her family’s living room that evening by no less than six officers, Smith said. Case reports noted the deputies “raised voices” in questioning the girl, the lawyer said.
“She eventually told them what they wanted to hear,” Smith told the judge. “But there was no gun and there was no photo of a gun posted to Facebook.”
Weyler told the judge authorities devoted a “huge” amount of resources during the early stages of the investigation, which saw the execution of search warrants at multiple homes. Other court orders seeking records were served on Facebook or cellphone service providers, he said.
Some 15 officers were involved in the first weeks, each working more than 40 hours per week, Weyler said.