The shooting spree at a Connecticut elementary school last week that left 20 children dead has triggered a barrage of mostly phony threats at South Florida schools. But at least one incident has ended in an arrest.
A 28-year-old man was accused of aggressively screaming and appearing to chase terrified students at Bayview Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday.
David Burch is facing a charge of disorderly conduct and appeared before Broward County Judge John "Jay" Hurley Thursday. He was ordered held without bail after bond was revoked in an unrelated case.
The incident came amid a wave of rumored threats to schools in both Broward and Palm Beach counties.
In Broward, the Davie Police Department Wednesday said it was investigating a report that a student could possibly bring a weapon to school Friday. The rumors continued Thursday with hoaxes surfacing at schools such as Pompano Beach High and Coral Glades High in Coral Springs.
In Palm Beach County, district spokesperson Nat Harrington said while rumors of fights and threats were circulating in social media networks, there was "no evidence of anything substantial."
Still, he said the district is taking every threat seriously and working with local law enforcement. Of the rumors, "we just think students are being kids."
But around 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, while a group of 22 students, mostly 7- and 8-year-olds, played kickball on an athletic field that is shared with George English Park, Burch began screaming and waving his arms aggressively at them, a police report said.
Phys ed teacher Karen Megonigal saw Burch, who was wearing camouflage pants, "create a high level of fear" among the children, the report said.
Megonigal ordered the students to run back into the school and notified principal JoEllen Scott, who escorted officers to the area where Burch was last seen.
"When [the gym teacher] called the children back to the school, he started to run toward the opening in the fence. She said she kept herself between the children and Mr. Burch," said Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Rick Rhodes, who testified during Burch's court hearing.
But Burch never made it past the fence, Rhodes said. Police found him in the wooded area adjacent to Middle River where he hid and later denied the accusation.
The children were crying and visibly upset, Rhodes said.
Gov. Rick Scott has asked all Floridians to hold a moment of silence for the victims of the Connecticut school slaying on Friday at 9:30 a.m.
Staff Writer Karen Yi contributed to this report.
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