MIAMI LAKES, Fla. - A 16-year-old student accused of tweeting out threats to open fire at his school in response to an announcement about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., said his words weren't meant to be taken literally.
Austin Lee Bowlin was arrested Monday.
"I didn't mean for it to get that big, and I'm upset at myself for posting such harsh things like that," said Bowlin. "I'm a kid and I'm, just really, I'm not -- I really wasn't thinking and I can admit it. I know I was wrong for what I said."
According to an arrest affidavit, Bowlin sent out several tweets after an announcement was made by the principal at Miami Lakes Educational Center, including writing:
- Finna shoot up the school this Friday. Prepare Yourselfs
- Making a list and checking it twice. We're about to see who gets shot up real nice
- Just cause this school has a "safety plan" don't mean ****. I could have walked in today with a gun in my bag and shot my whole class. Dead.
- Yeah, Bunch of little kids Died. I could care less and my school announces it like it matters. safe? I could shoot this school up easily
"The way that people are reacting is wrong and I came off strong about it but it got, obviously, got to a lot of people's heads," said Bowlin. "The way that I see it is that for people to understand it, it has to be harsh."
He told police the tweets were his reaction to the principal's announcement regarding the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"There were a bunch of kids in my class that were laughing and making a joke out of it as if it wasn't a big deal, and it made me upset," said Bowlin.
"The way that I meant it was that, I don't care about that, that point is anything can happen... that anyone could have went there and done that," said Bowlin. "It came off as strong, I understand that, and look at the impact it had on people. I really don't think anybody is going to be doing anything anytime soon."
"So, you're saying this is a reaction that people were laughing about an announcement and you wanted them to take it seriously?" asked Local 10's Sasha Andrade.
"Yeah, I came off as strong as possible," answered Bowlin.
Bowlin added that he meant for the tweets to be taken abstractly and not literally.
"I love all the teachers there. All my teachers that I have -- I love them and they all love me but I feel like I let them down with something as dumb as this," said Bowlin. "And, I'm upset at myself for, you know, posting such harsh things like that."
The arrest officer noted Bowlin had a picture of the Columbine shooting on his Twitter account.
Bowlin is charged with writing or making threats to injure or cause bodily injury.
A spokesman for Miami-Dade County Public Schools said Bowlin is suspended and the school board will recommend expelling him at its next meeting.
"I miss it. I miss going to school," said Bowlin.
The teen could also face felony charges.
"The only thing I really want to do is finish high school," said Bowlin.
Words worry parents, students
The arrest had parents and students worried Tuesday.
"He put on Twitter that he was going to shoot up the school and he didn't really care about the little kids that happened in Connecticut and he's threatening to shoot on Friday," said one classmate. "I'm kinda scared, a little worried. I don't know if I should come on Friday or not. I'm scared."
"I never knew that he had this side," said student Justin Lluch. "Also, when it comes to things like this, most of the times he just says it to prove a point."
"Instead of bringing his issues out to students, he should talk to an adult. There's plenty of people, guidance counselors, stuff like that, to talk to him," said another student.
"It's disturbing," said one mother.
"I think he just wanted attention," said the woman.
Another parent said she is considering taking her child out of school.
A man who claimed to have grown up with Bowlin said he wasn't shocked.
"I'm surprised but not surprised at the same time. Seeing him -- they used to do a bunch of things around here. I remember one time he started a little fire and a big ole fire and ran away and acted like nothing happened," said the man who asked not to be identified. "I can't tell you if he was serious or not, but I do hope they get him help. I mean, you don't no other tragedies to happen."
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