Family of Broward teen falsely arrested over school threat files lawsuit

Attorney: Pembroke Pines police conducted ‘a joke of an investigation’

The family of 13-year-old Nia Whims, who was falsely arrested last year after being impersonated online by someone who posted threatening messages toward her school announced Wednesday that they have filed a lawsuit against Renaissance Charter School, Meta (Facebook) and Instagram.

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – The family of 13-year-old Nia Whims, who was falsely arrested last year after being impersonated online by someone who posted threatening messages toward her school announced Wednesday that they have filed a lawsuit against Renaissance Charter School, Meta (Facebook) and Instagram.

The Whims’ family attorney, Marwan Porter, of The Porter Firm, also announced that they have put the Pembroke Pines Police Department on notice of their intent to bring them into the lawsuit.

Nia, who is in seventh grade, was arrested at her home on Nov. 19 by Pembroke Pines police after she was accused of posting a threatening message against her school on Instagram.

Police claimed Nia’s family chose to “exercise their rights” by not cooperating with investigators, however the teen’s attorney said she was interrogated by police at her home and voluntarily gave them her iPad to inspect before she was arrested.

“As we all know, sometimes the coverup is worse than the crime,” Porter said during a Wednesday morning news conference.

Nia is now expressing of feelings of isolation.

“I feel distant, like I really don’t want to talk to anybody,” she said.

Her mother, meanwhile, feels guilty about her initial reaction.

“To be honest, when the officers first told me it was her and we have evidence, I was so against her, and I felt bad when it wasn’t her,” her mother Lezlie-Ann Davis.

According to the complaint, a teacher reported the Instagram posts to the police department, and it was later determined that another student at her school had actually posted the threats.

Police confirmed that a 12-year-old girl was arrested.

“At this time we have presented charges to the state attorney and the current suspect is facing the felony charge of written threats to kill or do bodily harm,” the police department said in a news release.

Still, Nia’s family is outraged that the young teen spent nearly two weeks in a juvenile detention facility for a crime she did not commit. Her attorney said another inmate even threatened to stab her over some chocolate while she was at the facility.

WATCH: Full news conference with victim, her mother and her attorney.

They also say she had been bullied for months in the lead-up to the incident through taunting by her peers, as well as by pushing and shoving her.

The complaint states that Nia’s mother reported the incidents to the school and requested a meeting with administrators, but the school ignored her requests and failed to investigate the alleged bullying incidents, so Nia’s mother removed her from the school and enrolled her at another school.

According to the complaint, Nia and the student accused of creating a fake Instagram profile using her name had engaged in a conversation on the social media platform. The student then created the “fake” Instagram profile and sent messages to herself that would appear like they had been sent from Nia, the complaint stated.

The messages included threats to blow up the school and kill people, including the student who police said was responsible for the messages and a teacher, identified as Alia Silvera and the teacher’s family, the complaint states.

The lawsuit states that Silvera alerted school officials and the Pembroke Pines Police Department.

The school was placed on a “yellow alert” and police went to Nia’s home.

The complaint states that Nia admitted to engaging in a conversation online with the other student, but denied sending threatening messages.

It states that she also allowed police to take and inspect the iPad she used to communicate with the student, but they still arrested her.

According to the complaint, Nia was finally cleared of wrongdoing after police discovered the IP address actually linked the other student to the threatening messages.

During Wednesday’s news conference, Porter called Nia’s arrest “reckless” and said the police department conducted “a joke of an investigation.”

“Failure to promptly investigate this easily discoverable information by the Pembroke Pines Police caused N.W. to remain in a juvenile detention facility away from her family for 11 days,” the complaint stated.

The lawsuit seeks in excess of $30,000, excluding “interest, costs and attorney’s fees.”

Nia’s mother told reporters Wednesday that no one from the school or police department has apologized to her or her daughter for their actions.

“They need to make sure they do their homework prior to putting our children in handcuffs and locking them up,” said Porter.

Added Davis, “They should have taken their time to investigate thoroughly before introducing trauma to my child at all.”

A spokeswoman for the charter school told Local 10 News in an email: “We have not been served with any lawsuit at this time, though there appears that there is pending litigation. We do no comment on pending litigation.”

A request for comment from Meta and the Pembroke Pines police chief have not yet been responded to at this time.

Nia is now finding solace in running. She is part of a track team and said running helps her feel “at peace.” Her favorite events are the 100 meter and 200 meter dash.

Davis said Nia has been enrolled in Florida Virtual but said Wednesday that she is looking to enroll Nia at a local in-person public school because her daughter misses being around other kids.

READ THE FULL COMPLAINT BELOW:


About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."