Teen arrested in Ontario after mass shooting threats made toward Florida LGBTQ event: police

·3 min read
West Palm Beach police say the teen was arrested in Mississauga early Monday. Local police released images from the alleged video Sunday, in which the accused appears to be holding a gun.   (West Palm Beach Police - image credit)
West Palm Beach police say the teen was arrested in Mississauga early Monday. Local police released images from the alleged video Sunday, in which the accused appears to be holding a gun. (West Palm Beach Police - image credit)

A teen has been arrested in Mississauga, Ont. after allegedly making online threats to commit a mass shooting at an LGBTQ pride event in West Palm Beach, Fla., authorities say.

The West Palm Beach Police Department said in a news release that a 17-year-old boy was arrested on Monday morning and charged with threats to commit a mass shooting. Additional charges are pending, they say, including: written or electronic threats to kill, do bodily injury, or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism.

The Miami Police Department received a report on Sunday of a threat made against the Pride on the Block 2022 event in West Palm Beach on the video chat platform Omegle, local police said.

Police say in the video, the teen was waving a gun, making anti-LGBTQ comments, and said he would be carrying out a mass shooting that day at the event. The teen also claimed to live in Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach police say.

Local police released images from the alleged video Sunday, in which the accused appears to be holding a gun.

Rick Morris, deputy chief of West Palm Beach Police, told CBC News in an interview that it was a user on the chat platform who first flagged the possibility of danger to police.

"This was a perfect example of see something, say something," Morris said.

Miami police then notified West Palm Beach police, who launched an investigation.

The boy, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was arrested Monday as a result of a joint international investigation between the New York Police Department, Toronto Police Service, Peel Regional Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

No current public safety threat, police say

Morris said the accused in the case was arrested in Mississauga around 2 a.m. Monday. He said U.S. authorities plan to extradite the teen to face charges stateside, but it could take some time for that to happen.

Morris could not specify exactly how authorities traced the teen back to Canada, but he lauded police in both Toronto and Peel for their swift work on the case.

In a statement, Omegle said it "takes threats made on the platform very seriously," adding that it helped law enforcement by providing information related to the user associated with the alleged threats.

Toronto police referred a CBC News request for more information to Peel police, saying Peel was "involved in the arrest."

Peel police offered few other details, except to say that the "matter has been investigated and addressed, and there is no current concern of any public safety threat."

Investigators have recovered both the video and the gun seen in it, West Palm Beach police said in its news release.

Event organizer Donna Weinberger told CBC News in an interview that police assured them the event would be safe — with a host of uniformed and non-uniformed officers in the crowd looking out for trouble.

"Their recommendation was to keep it going," Weinberger said.

Debated cancelling event

Morris said police weighed the possibility of cancelling the event, but in the end, decided against it.

""Even though the threat was taken very, very seriously, and [was] very credible, these threats come in — and at what point does law enforcement start disrupting everybody's normal life over [threats]?" he said.

Julia Murphy, chief development officer for Compass Community Centre, which was a sponsor and community partner for the event, said she was "devastated" when she first found out about the threat.

"There's a lot of fear — for your friends, your family, you want to feel safe. All of us do," she said.

"To know that just for existing that somebody wants you to be dead, I don't even know if anyone can process what the feeling is like. It's devastating — and you're talking about an entire community of people that just want to spread love and happiness and be their authentic selves."

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