On Feb. 14 last year, just two months after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, an 18-year-old in Texas named Justin Carter was arrested.
Carter, an avid gamer, got into a spat with a fellow League of Legends player on Facebook. After being provoked, Carter fired back with a startling comment:
I think Ima shoot up a kindergarten / And watch the blood of the innocent rain down/ And eat the beating heart of one of them.
Here’s a screengrab of the conversation, which was sent to local Texas authorities by a worried observer soon after the spat (below, left).
When you read the first comment in the screengrab, it seems apparent that Carter was provoked. Without knowing the complete context of the conversation, it’s impossible to determine if Carter was serious or just writing a messed-up joke.
According to Carter’s lawyer, Don Flanary, the below screen grab — along with a statement from the tipster — is all the cops saw before jailing the teen.
Facebook, Flanary says, never handed the entire conversation over. Cops haven’t actually seen the whole conversation. Prosecutors don’t have a copy of the entire thread.
“If you understand the English language, when someone says, ‘I’m fucked in the head alright comma,’ that is a preparatory phrase … in response to a previous phrase,” Flanary told the Dallas Observer’s Craig Malisow. “Presumably, someone [said] to him, ‘You are fucked in the head,’ or words similar to that,” Flanary explained to the Dallas Observer.
Despite the fact that half of the conversation was missing, Carter was arrested for a third-degree “terroristic threat” which can mean years of jail time. His bail, which was initially set at $US250,000, was bumped up to $US500,000. Flanary says Carter was also sexually assaulted while he was in jail. Finally, an anonymous person paid Carter’s bail when the story became a global news item in July.
“When you’re dealing with speech it is absolutely, 100 per cent important that the words that you are charging people with are actually the words that they said and not some misrepresentation,” Flanary, who is working pro-bono for the Carter family, said.
Carter has a history of saying troubling things on Facebook. A few comments he made caused a former girlfriend to file a temporary restraining order against him in October 2011.
The former girlfriend told the Dallas Observer’s Malisow that Carter had threatened both her life and his. He also allegedly told her then that he wanted to “shoot up the school.”
“He started threatening me, saying that he would kill me,” the former girlfriend said. “I told the school officers, [and] they started watching him really closely. He would say that he would shoot up the school.”
A few months prior to that, Carter wrote other disturbing comments: “Noone likes me, I have no friends. I’m ugly, I’m annoying,” he wrote in January 2011. “The only good aspect is im smart. Too smart. Soo smart it borthers people. They think im crazy im not christian another strike against me. Im weird. Noone likes the weird random kid [sic].”
Carter’s mother, who follows her son’s activity on Facebook, warned him then to be careful about what he wrote.
“You really need to think about what you’re posting, Justin, you have people worried about your safety,” she said.
Unfortunately, she was right and her son didn’t listen.