VERO BEACH, Fla. - The Indian River County Sheriff's Office said a man was arrested after a series of bomb threats to Vero Beach Elementary on Tuesday.
Matthew Vaughn Hawks, 26, of Vero Beach is charged in connection with the threats.
Officers said Hawks called 911 dispatch four times in 15 minutes around 4 p.m. Tuesday and the first call said a bomb would go off Wednesday afternoon.
Police searched the school and did not find any explosives.
The sheriff’s office said school officials were briefed on the details. Deputies were on hand Wednesday morning to reassure parents and students.
"I assure you that the sweeps and continuous sweeps that occurred (at the school) indicate that campus is completely safe," said Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar.
A search warrant was executed at a home that was shared by Hawks, his father and his grandmother. Investigators say they found eight computers and one shotgun but no explosives.
Hawks denied to detectives that he was behind the calls. One of them made reference to Newtown, Connecticut and a bomber named "Adam".
“The Adam that was going to do something in Vero Beach was going to do something very similar to what happened in Newtown. He (the caller) said not only was there a bomb involved, he said there were going to be weapons and that nobody was going to survive the issue,” said Lt. Tony Consalo.
As for a possible motive, investigators say Hawks was a credentialed volunteer at Vero Beach Elementary as well as Dodgertown Elementary and at the Boys and Girls Club.
However, last December, he was arrested and charged with battery on a minor.
That charge stemmed from a Halloween incident where a teenage girl said he groped her.
That case has yet to be resolved in the courts but after the charge, staff at both elementary schools and at the Boys and Girls Club took away his volunteer credentials.
Hawks posted bond and was released from jail on Wednesday; he faces a charge of filing a false bomb report.
Friday an attorney, on behalf of the family released the following statement:
My name is Jesse Larsen and I represent Matthew Hawks in regard to allegations of a hoax bomb threat
made against Vero Beach Elementary School on April 1st. Both Matthew and his family are still reeling
from the traumatic events of the past 72 hours. We are certain the same is true for all of the children,
family members, and law enforcement personnel who were affected by this incident. As this story
begins to unfold in the media, it has become clear that important parts of the narrative are being left
out. While pending criminal charges limit how much information can be disclosed, Mr. Hawks' family
felt that it was important to provide the following background information to avoid an irreparable
misunderstanding of the facts.
Matthew has been clinically diagnosed with an intellectual disability. His IQ scores place him in the
bottom 2% of the population in terms of cognitive ability. He has also been diagnosed with Asperger's
Disorder. Asperger's is an Autism Spectrum Disorder that inhibits a person's ability to socialize and
communicate effectively with others. Upon turning 18 years of age and becoming a legal adult,
Matthew was evaluated by a physician who recommended that Matthew needed the legal protection of
a limited guardianship. At that time Matthew voluntarily surrendered his right to marry, travel, enter
into contracts, manage property, determine his residence, consent to medical treatment, and to make
decisions about his social environment. The guardianship requires that these decisions be made by
Matthew's father and maternal grandmother who have raised him since his mother's passing in 2001. As
a 26 year old adult, Matthew continues to be defined as a “vulnerable adult” under Florida law and is
legally incapable of handling his own affairs.
Matthew was detained for questioning in reference to this incident in the early evening hours of April
1st and remained in police custody until he was booked into the Indian River County Jail in the early
morning hours of April 2nd. During that course of time Matthew's father, Gregory Hawks, made
Detectives of the Indian River County Sheriff's Office aware of Matthew's cognitive limitations and his
guardianship status. Neither I nor Matthew's family had the opportunity to watch all of the press
conferences and interviews given by representatives of the Sheriff's Office as they attempted to
deescalate the tensions caused by the alleged bomb scare. However, we are sure that this information
was at some point passed along by law enforcement to various news outlets. It concerns the family
deeply that sensationalism of this story may have contributed to this important information being
omitted from news reports.
As this matter moves forward through the judicial process, I look forward to presenting the full story
regarding the events of April 1, 2014. The family would like to thank the media for allowing Matthew’s
side of the story to be told. At this time the
family requests privacy and would like to express gratitude
for the support they have received.
OHLE & OHLE, P.A.
Jesse H. Larsen, Attorney for Matthew Hawks