Police: South Butler student posted shooting video captioned 'training for prom walk'
A Butler County judge has increased the bond for a teen accused of allegedly making an online threat to shoot students in the South Butler County School District.
Jason Bowen, 18, of Middlesex Township, is charged with terroristic threats, causing catastrophe, possession of drug paraphernalia and a weapons offense.
District Judge Sue Haggerty said after reviewing the evidence and the case once it came to her office Monday, she felt the bond needed to be increased and a mental evaluation ordered. Bowen’s bond was initially set at $25,000 cash during an arraignment in night court, but Haggerty increased it to $100,000 cash.
Haggerty said plans for a dance this weekend at the high school concerned her in light of the nature of the threats.
“I just didn’t want anyone to have any concerns and worries,” Haggerty said.
Bowen is accused of posting a Snapchat video that depicts him shooting a semi-automatic rifle captioned “training for prom walk,” according to court documents. Bowen is also alleged to have given a thumbs-up to the Sandy Hook school shooting in an Instagram photo posted last February.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 16. Haggerty noted bond amounts can be changed at any time based on new information in a case.
Bowen’s attorney, Pittsburgh-based David Shrager, said his client never intended to follow-through with any kind of threat and said the video that was posted was an inappropriate joke.
“We are aware that this young man made a joke in very, very poor taste. It’s not funny. It’s not appropriate,” Shrager said. “We have to balance the need for safety with rationality and judge each case on its facts and not based out of fear and excitement.”
Middlesex police Sgt. Randy Ruediger said the gun Bowen allegedly used in the video belonged to a friend and has since been recovered by police.
Ruediger said he doesn’t anticipate anyone else being charged.
“Right now, we don’t have any reason to believe the person who owns the weapon made any threats,” he said. “We’re going to treat these incidents with seriousness.”
Police also found brass knuckles and drug paraphernalia during a search of Bowen’s room.
Shrager said the family is cooperating with the investigation and said the situation was “very shocking and disheartening for them.”
Shrager said Bowen has no criminal history, and he is working to get him out of jail.
A message left for Shrager regarding the increase in bond was not immediately returned. He said earlier in the day Monday he believed $25,000 was too high.
“I certainly understand a judge’s need to be cautious because of the tragedies that have happened across this county,” Shrager said. “That being said, it’s my position that the bond should be lowered, and we will be addressing those matters.”
The district remained on a modified lockdown for the rest of the day as a safety precaution. Under a modified lockdown, no visitors were permitted to enter the school buildings.
The district will be operating with tightened security for “the foreseeable future,” according to a message on the district website.
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, email@example.com or via Twitter @emilybalser.