COA partially reverses delinquent adjudication against teen

A teenager who devised a plan to shoot his assistant principal and other students while at school has had one delinquent adjudications reversed after the Indiana Court of Appeals determined the threat the student made against the assistant principal did not meet the statutory definition of intimidation.

In E.B. v. State of Indiana, 47a04-1706-JV-1263, Todd Tanksley, an assistant principal at E.B.’s high school in Lawrence County, disciplined E.B. for misconduct in the cafeteria. One month later, E.B. told multiple fellow students to wear red to school the following Tuesday because he would shoot anybody not wearing red. E.B.’s sister also overheard him telling someone on the phone that he planned to shoot Tanskley on the day in question because he did not like him.

One of the students who received warning to wear red reported the threat to Tanskley. After speaking with E.B.’s sister and learning he was the original source of the threat, Tanskley called police, who searched E.B.’s room and found written plans for the shooting, ammunition, a holster and a tactical vest.

E.B. was arrested and admitted to planning the attack, so the school notified parents of the threat. The next day, 588 students were absent from the school, compared to the roughly 150 who were normally absent each day.

After a subsequent fact-finding hearing, E.B. was adjudicated as a delinquent for committing what would be two counts of Level 6 felony intimidation if committed by an adult, with one count related to Tanksley and the other related to interfering with the occupancy of the school. E.B. appealed, and the Indiana Court of Appeals struck down one of his delinquency adjudications on Tuesday.

Specifically, the appellate court reversed E.B.’s adjudication as it related to Tanksley after finding Tanksley’s knowledge of the threat came from E.B.’s sister, who overheard E.B. talking on the phone to someone else.

“We do not know who E.B. was talking with or what else was said during the conversation,” Senior Judge Betty Barteau wrote Tuesday. “…There is no evidence that E.B. made his statement with knowledge or reason to believe that his statement would reach Tanskley.”

Thus, under the precedent of J.T. v. State, 718 N.E.2d 1119, 1124 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999), the threat E.B.’s sister heard his make against Tanksley did not reach the definition of “intimidation” under Indiana Code section 35-45-2-1, Barteau wrote.

However, Barteau said there was evidence E.B. planned to interfere with the occupancy of the school, including his decision to warn a select group of students about his plans and the evidence found in his bedroom. Thus, his adjudication was upheld under that count.

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