House arrest rejected in student threats case
MINDEN – A judge on Wednesday refused a second request to release a Douglas High School student accused of threatening to shoot a group of classmates who were praying at the campus flagpole.
East Fork Justice Jim EnEarl set a Wednesday hearing for Daniel Robert Ferguson, 18, in custody in Douglas County Jail on $5,000 cash bail.
Ferguson was charged with threatening to cause bodily harm to a pupil or school employee, a gross misdemeanor.
He allegedly told a student who was praying Sept. 27 with a group of friends near the flagpole outside the school, “If I had an AK-47 with me, I would shoot you all.”
He was accused of repeating the threat the next day to the same student before class.
Ferguson, who was arrested Sept. 29 at his Topaz Ranch Estates home, admitted the threats, but told officers he was joking.
“I don’t know if you did what the state says you did,” EnEarl said. “But you picked a hell of a time for a joke. Look at the headlines for the past few weeks.”
“Yeah, I know,” Ferguson said.
“You put everyone in this community between a rock and a hard spot,” EnEarl said.
“Yes, I have,” Ferguson replied.
EnEarl referred to a recent outbreak of school violence in the past two weeks. Five girls were shot to death Monday at an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. A week earlier, a similar incident occurred in Bailey, Colo.
Lawyer Derrick Lopez, who was filling in for Ferguson’s court-appointed attorney, said negotiations were under way with the District Attorney’s Office.
He asked EnEarl to place Ferguson on house arrest.
“He’s lived here for five years and has never been in trouble,” Lopez said.
Prosecutor Kris Brown objected based on the seriousness of the charge, and said that if Ferguson was expelled, he’d have nothing to do all day.
His father, Kelly Joseph Ferguson, asked for his son’s release so he could go back to school.
“He wants to earn a diploma. Let him come home and continue to go to school,” Kelly Ferguson said.
His father brought a half-dozen letters from friends who described the suspect as “a gentle giant” and “a very smart, very funny, very sweet boy.”
“I know you came here in hopes he’d be released,” EnEarl told Ferguson’s supporters. “Given the tone, especially this past week and in the last five years, I can’t take that chance.”
EnEarl said the charge was “horrendous.”
“Not only is (Brown) alleging a threat of violence, she’s alleging a threat of violence for religious reasons,” EnEarl said.
On Monday, Ferguson told the court his son made the threats out of frustration because he was harassed at school.
“I think my son is the greatest kid in the world, but I’m prejudiced,” Ferguson told EnEarl.