MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A 17-year-old high school student was arrested for telling another student he “wanted to blow up the school” and “kill everyone,” according to court documents.
Nassau County police charged Ryan Bernhardt with making a terrorist threat, which is a felony. The teen appeared in court Wednesday where he pleaded not guilty. Bail was set at $30,000.
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According to the District Court felony complaint, Bernhardt told a fellow student, “I hate everyone and I hope I get the chance to kill everyone.” The complaint also states Bernhardt said, “I want to blow up the school,” “I want to go to Europe and kill people,” and “I have a list of people and wish they were in the Colorado Dark Knight shooting.”
Web Extra: Read The Felony Complaint (pdf)
The Massapequa High School senior was at Town Bagel near the school on Merrick Road Tuesday when he made the threats, investigators said.
According to the complaint, the student became fearful and said she believed Bernhardt would act on the statements, so she immediately went to the school and notified personnel of the threats. School staffers then identified Bernhardt and the teen was later arrested at his home, police said.
However, despite the allegations, family members and classmates said Bernhardt was simply misunderstood.
“He didn’t mean what he said and to charge him with a felony in my opinion is ridiculous,” senior Eddie Hanley told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
“I feel bad for him, but then also you shouldn’t be saying that stuff,” another classmate said.
As Bernhardt’s parents tried to raise bail money, his father said he understands why, and at his sons age, a threat would result in an arrest.
“In this day and age, they have to take it so seriously, but it’s my kid,” Bob Bernhardt, the suspect’s dad, said.
However, Bernhardt’s father said it was another student who made the comments.
“His story was that, I’m going to speculate a little bit, the kid came up to him and said ‘hey, how’s it going — great to be back at school’ and my son said ‘I hate this place’ and allegedly this John said then ‘why don’t you blow it up’ and my son’s response was like ‘I am too much of a pansy, I would never do something like that,'” he said.
Bernhardt’s attorney also said he’s an honor student, who has been bullied.
“He would never do anything to hurt anybody, he’s never had issues in the past where he’s been in fights or aggressive or violent at all,” Defense Attorney Richard Stafford said.
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Police said he had no weapons in his possession and that no weapons were found in his home.
“Every threat is taken very seriously and any student or students who are guilty of such an action will be subject to the maximum penalties found in the Code of Conduct,” said Massapequa High School principal Dr. Barbara Williams in a letter posted on the school’s website.
Other students who know Bernhardt also said arresting him may have been too harsh.
“I wouldn’t have exactly arrested him,” one girl said. “I would have probably gotten him help more than getting him arrested or putting him in jail.”
“People do joke around like that,” said another student.
“They went a little bit far with it,” another student said. “If the kid was actually serious — I don’t think he was — but if he was serious, then they did the right thing.”
Bernhart faces not only school discipline but, if charged as an adult, he faces up to 7 years in jail.
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