A teen is arrested in Mississauga, Ont. after allegedly making online threats to commit a mass shooting at an LGBTQ pride event in West Palm Beach, Florida, authorities say.
West Palm Beach Police said in a press release that a 17-year-old boy was arrested Monday morning and charged with threatening to commit a mass shooting. Additional charges are pending, they say, including: written or electronic threats to kill, cause physical harm, or commit a mass shooting or act of terrorism.
Miami police received a report on video chat platform Omegle on Sunday of a threat against the Pride on the Block 2022 event in West Palm Beach.
Police say in the video that the teen brandished a gun, made anti-LGBTQ comments and said he would carry out a mass shooting that day during the event. The teen also claimed to live in Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach Police said.
Local police released images of the alleged video on Sunday, in which the suspect appears to be holding a gun.
Rick Morris, deputy chief of police for West Palm Beach, told CBC News in an interview that it was a user on the chat platform who first signaled the possibility of danger to the police.
“This was a perfect example of seeing something, saying something,” Morris said.
The Miami Police Department then notified West Palm Beach police investigators, who began an investigation.
ARREST OF ANTI-#LGBTQ+ SUSPECTED THREAT OF MASS SHOOTING. International multi-agency investigation with @NYPDnews @TorontoPolice @PeelPolice @FBI @MiamiPD leads to arrest of 17-year-old who threatened mass shootings during the #Pride event. https://t.co/VQByLH6pFH through @Nextdoor pic.twitter.com/FFHYAhKg7f
The boy, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was arrested Monday as a result of a joint international investigation between the New York Police Department, the Toronto Police Service, the Peel Regional Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. .
No current threat to public safety, police say
Morris said the accused in the case was arrested in Mississauga around 2 a.m. Monday. He said US authorities plan to extradite the teen to face charges by the state, but it could be some time before that happens.
Morris couldn’t say exactly how authorities traced the teen to Canada, but he praised police in both Toronto and Peel for their quick work on the case.
In a statement, Omegle said it “takes the threats on the platform very seriously,” adding that it helped law enforcement by providing information related to the user related to the alleged threats.
The Toronto Police Department referred a request from CBC News for more information to the Peel Police Department, saying Peel was “involved in the arrest”.
Peel Police offered few other details, other than that the “case has been investigated and addressed and there are currently no concerns about a threat to public safety”.
Investigators recovered both the video and the gun, the West Palm Beach Police Department said in its press release.
Event organizer Donna Weinberger told CBC News in an interview that police assured them the event would be safe — with a large number of uniformed and non-uniformed officers in the crowd looking out for trouble.
“Their recommendation was to keep it going,” Weinberger said.
Debated cancel event
Morris said police considered the option of canceling the event, but ultimately declined.
“While the threat was taken very, very seriously, and… [was] very believable, these threats are coming in – and when will law enforcement start disrupting everyone’s normal lives? [threats]?” he said.
Julia Murphy, chief development officer for Compass Community Center, which was a sponsor and community partner for the event, said she was “devastated” when she first learned about the threat.
“There’s a lot of fear — for your friends, your family, you want to feel safe. All of us,” she said.
“To know that just because someone wants you dead I don’t even know if anyone can handle what the feeling is like. It’s devastating – and you’re talking about a whole community of people just wanting to spread love and happiness and be their authentic selves.”