Deputies: Threatening Snapchat leads to arrest of Putnam County teen

Former FBI agent explains how law enforcement investigates social media threats

PALATKA, Fla. – A 15-year-old student at Putnam EDGE Charter High School was arrested early Friday after taking a threatening social media post that originated in South Carolina and reposting it as a threat to Palatka High School, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office said.

Damaria Adams is charged with writing and sending threats to kill, which is a second-degree felony.  

The original image posted on social media went viral across the country, and the person pictured was arrested Thursday in South Carolina, investigators said. 

According to an arrest report, Adams tampered with the original image, adding "R.I.P Palatka High ... Round 2 of Florida tomorrow" to a Snapchat, and then circulated it locally. 

Investigators said they failed to identify any credible threat to any school in Putnam County. But out of an abundance of caution, the Sheriff's Office increased patrols at Palatka High School on Friday.

The arrest report states the school board even allowed students to have an excused absence if they didn't go to school Friday because of the threat. 

Toni Chrabot, a former FBI agent, said every threat is handled differently and none are taken lightly by law enforcement agencies.

“For law enforcement to prevent situations like this, they have to be able to intervene, or somebody has to be able to intervene. We don’t have a good process for dealing with mental health in this country and then you have young people who have no concept of the consequences," she said. "So if law enforcement, families, community, schools can intervene in collaboration with law enforcement, I think we’re in a much better position as a whole to be proactive and prevent incidents like we just saw in Florida."

Chrabot, who's now CEO of Risk Confidence Group, said special task forces among law enforcement officers play an important role in investigating threats on social media.

"There’s a continuous stream of complaints that come in. Certainly, the FBI and law enforcement around the country have benefited from task forces," she said. "So your joint terrorism task forces, which cross over into domestic terrorism, then work closely, certainly, with the criminal counterparts. But I think they’ve been, by and large, all very effective and very efficient.”

Chrabot added that tips are the best way to help law enforcement track down anyone who makes a threatening post. 

“If information came into the FBI office, it would be followed up on. Typically, it would be followed up on," Chrabot said. "Agents do have investigative guidelines that were put out by the Department of Justice that they must follow and it really dictates the invasive measures that they’re allowed to take. It's ensuring that people’s civil rights aren't violated. So certain thresholds of a factual basis have to be met before further steps can be taken investigatively.”

Putnam County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Damaria Adams
Putnam County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Damaria Adams

No matter what, Chrabot said, always report something suspicious to law enforcement. 

Deputies said Adams was arrested about 1 a.m. Friday.

In a media release, the Sheriff's Office said that despite a request, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice declined to detain Adams.

This is Superintendent Rick Surrency on behalf of Sheriff Gator Deloach. The Putnam County School District and the...

Posted by Putnam County School District on Thursday, February 15, 2018

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