INVERNESS, Fla. (FOX 13) - Threats to "shoot up" a school in Inverness, Florida were made public by the Citrus County School District Thursday.
In a post on Facebook, the district said it was made aware of the alleged threats made by a 34-year-old Floral City man while he was in custody for unrelated charges.
According to Citrus County schools, 34-year-old Ryan Connell told a psychologist he would "shoot up IPS" referring to Inverness Primary School. He repeated the threats to several law enforcement officers who documented the statements in reports, according to Citrus County schools.
The district said it asked the state attorney to file charges against the man who made the threats, but the state attorney said the case did not "rise to the level of criminal charges."
"For the [State Attorney's Office] not to be able to file charges against a man who is clearly making threats to our students, it's very disturbing," said Lindsay Blair, a spokesperson for the district, adding there's concern about what Connell might do if he's released from jail. "That's why we're taking the steps now and alleviating as much as possible to make sure we're ready in case he does get out of jail. We're hopeful that he won't. But we have to do everything on our end to make sure that our students are safe, that our school campuses are safe and that our parents are notified."
According to emails from the State Attorney's Office, three law enforcement officers overheard Connell threaten to shoot up the school and those threats were repeated in a recorded jailhouse phone call with Connell's father.
But the state attorney decided the verbal threats don't meet the criteria for criminal conduct largely because they weren't written down.
The decision to not file charges left some parents terrified.
"At what point is enough going to be enough? Does he have to carry this out in order for people to believe him? How is this not credible? I don't understand it," said Nicole Merrow, whose three children attend Inverness Primary School. "Whether it's a misdemeanor or a felony, how do you not find something to charge him with? He's threatening children? There's nothing that you can do? I don't believe that."
Online records show Connell was charged for crimes he allegedly committed while already in custody. It is unclear why he was already in custody. It was also unclear when he allegedly made the threats against IPS.
The school district wrote on Facebook, "As with all credible threats, we feel it is our responsibility to keep families informed when situations like these arise. We are committed to keeping your children safe in our schools and utilizing every available resource to ensure safety on our campuses."
"We believe that this gentleman has the ability and the mindset to carry this type of threat out," said Buddy Grant, the chief of the district's police force. "If there's a threat to a campus, you can bet we're utilizing our resources to beef up that campus and make it more secure."
Grant told FOX 13, for the foreseeable future, two armed guardians will be assisting the existing school resource officer.
Families of students at nearby Citrus High School were also made aware of the alleged threat.