The threat that shook the county

Published 9:10 am Thursday, February 22, 2018

Teen’s father discloses why his son was targeted, how their family

is dealing with the aftermath of last week’s social media frenzy

In the wake of the events that took place in Parkland, Florida last week, most of Jessamine County held its breath Saturday night into Tuesday morning as threats of a school shooting circulated on social media.

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In a situation which Nicholasville Police Department calls “a perfect example of how the public and police came together to gather the evidence needed to make an arrest,” an innocent Jessamine County teen was allegedly framed by two older males his father said were his friends.

“They were supposed to be friends. Evidently not very good ones,” Danny Cross said. “I don’t really think they meant for it to turn into what it did. I don’t know if they wanted him to get in trouble. They said they were playing a prank. Regardless, they had to know that this was a serious prank, or you would think that anyways.”

After an investigation which lasted all night, Tristan H. Kelly, 19, and Cody T. Ritchey, 18, both of Nicholasville, were arrested on Feb. 18 for second degree terroristic threatening after investigations revealed that Danny’s son, was not, in fact, the one who had posted pictures of himself on Snapchat holding a gun and threatening Jessamine County Schools

when students returned Monday morning. Those posts were discovered to have been allegedly made by Kelly and Ritchey and have in fact traveled as far as Ennis County, Texas, where the same picture has been used in a different school shooting threat where a girl at Ennis County High School has recently been arrested and charged with terroristic threatening.

“Someone had pulled it and taken the Jessamine County off and was using it in Texas,” Cross said. “Ennis County Texas. Evidently, some big blogs are out there where people are doing the same thing they are doing here and freaking out about his picture, but that is in Texas!”

Cross explained his son is attending Rivendell Behavioral Health in Bowling Green for substance abuse and it was impossible that he was behind the online posts. Handing his son’s cell phone over to the Nicholasville Police Department, he said it was then possible to determine that he had no part in it.

“Those kids actually made a Snapchat using his name and made it look identical to the one that was his,” Cross said. “That was when they posted all that stuff. They didn’t actually use all his stuff they made their own. Then they sent him a message saying ‘haha look what we did with the picture’ thinking that they were being funny. Then when they found out that he was not around and that he was in rehab they were like ‘whoa that’s bad because now it is out here and we can’t take it down.’ When we didn’t know who had done it I hope the kids were not actually going to do something and try to frame my son for it. They can wear masks down to the school and do something different and get out of there before anyone gets them and he (my son) really wasn’t the one that did it.”

Cross said he learned about the threatening social media posts involving his son after he was contacted by his son’s lawyer asking if he was still attending Rivendell in Bowling Green. He said he does not use Facebook often, and explained this last weekend was the most he has used it in a long time.

“I have seen a lot of negative responses (online) and I responded as best I could,” Cross said. “There were a few times where I got aggravated and maybe said something but I didn’t say anything too bad because I know how people are. For the most part, it has not been too bad. I have not been really keeping up with it since they caught up with the two. I have kind of just left it alone. There is no sense of getting aggravated over something. People that knew me were supportive right away. They believed what I was saying was true. People that don’t know me were the ones that were the worst.”

Cross said he had people online telling him that he was lying even after he explained his son’s situation. Some people even told him that it was impossible that the pictures online were not taken the same day.

“I had seen that picture back in January when he took it,” Cross said. “I had got on him for it (then) because he took it at a friends house and it wasn’t his gun. I don’t let him mess around with guns. We have a big safe and all of our stuff has been put up. He has never even shot a gun. He was at a friends house and trying to look cool like kids do I guess. But I got on him and told him to take the picture down. I thought he did, but evidently, he didn’t take it down soon enough because those kids got a hold of it.”

Cross explained that his son suffers from dyslexia and ADHD. He has been on depression medication most of his life, and his mother has virtually been nonexistent for most of it. He also disclosed the fact his son has been bullied most of his life by both students and adults at schools he attended, Cross believes it caused problems for his son even though he loved school.

“He loved being at the high school,” Cross said. “But after he would spend a few weeks when school would start then all of a sudden things would change. Kids are aggravating him and making fun of him. He is a bright kid. He tried to do a bunch of good stuff, but even playing football and stuff like that he always had a rough time with kids. Kids were just immature and mean.”

In fact, Cross said his son does not know about the events which took place Saturday night. He said he asked his son about Kelly and Ritchey who made the posts and he admitted they were friends.

When he told them what they had done leaving his son’s involvement out of the equation, his son responded only saying, “oh man, that was dumb.”

“The cops tried to go to Rivendell and talk to him but it was late and he was in bed,” Cross said. “Rivendell is a very strict place they wouldn’t let them talk to him anyway because the only people that are allowed to talk to him are on a list. The only ones on the list are me and his grandparents. We are planning on calling with his therapist on the line and telling him, that way if he does have a reaction it will down there and they can handle it and help him through it.”

Cross said his son is on schedule to be released from Rivendell on March 12. Turning 18-years-old on March 19, his plan is to go back to high school when he returns and finish out his senior year. Although, Cross said he fears that his return to school could cause the way he has been treated in the past by fellow classmates to be even worse.

“I just hope that kids leave him alone and maybe don’t tease him about it,” Cross said. “It is not something to tease him about and I hope the picture stops. I hope that kids would sympathize with the fact that he has problems but he didn’t do this. Yeah, he took a picture with a gun, but he didn’t use that picture the way it got used. There is a big difference. I try to tell people it is not against the law to take a picture with a weapon. It is against the law to threaten people. My son didn’t threaten anybody. I don’t think my son would have ever done that. No matter what kind of issues he has he is not the type of kid that would threaten people.”

In response to posts Cross made on social media about pressing charges against the two responsible, he said he doesn’t know if he can.

“I don’t like to see them get in trouble but I just really hope that they learn their lesson to just not do that to someone else,” Cross said. “They need enough of a punishment to know that they should never do this again.” 

Cross said he hopes this event opens up peoples eyes to see how serious the situation throughout the nation is. His hope is that through the events of last Saturday people will see that things can happen and it could not even be their fault.

“In all the shootings and stuff you see, all those kids, you can tell they have had a hard time,” Cross said.

“It doesn’t give them an excuse to do what they do but I think if people were nicer to kids that have problems that a lot of this stuff could be avoided. Even the shooting in Florida. If people would have just been nice to him and not treated him that way then he never would have gone down that road. I feel like people get pushed to their limit. Everyone says gun control but that is not it. If someone wants a gun they can go get it regardless of if you go and but it at a store or not. Most criminals don’t get them the legitimate way anyways. They either steal them or buy them on the black market.”

Despite all that has happened, Cross said his hope is that his son’s picture is forgotten over time and this event does not affect his future.

“I just hope that it doesn’t fallow him although it probably will. It is libel to get pulled up two years from now and someone uses it again,” Cross said. “If people remember his face and never pay attention to the fact that they caught the other two guys I am sure there are still people out there thinking that his picture was the legitimate threat. Hopefully nothing else comes of it. It could have been really bad, but when they found out who did it, it was just kids who played a dumb prank not thinking about the consequences.”

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