Ex-Gustine High student pleads not guilty to threatening the school
A Facebook post from a former Gustine High School student that included a photo of the Parkland, Florida school shooter and an alleged threat to shoot up the high school was shared at least 100,000 times with more than 20,000 reactions, according to prosecutors.
“That’s very concerning,” Merced County Deputy District Attorney Travis Colby said after Joshua Delgado was arraigned on a felony charge Wednesday. “Rather than reporting it, unfortunately, too many people wanted to react and share it.”
Delgado, 19, of Gustine, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the Robert M. Falasco Justice Center in Los Banos to making criminal threats after authorities discovered a Facebook post he made on Feb. 16 sharing a photo of 19-year-old Parkland shooter Nikolas Jacob Cruz, according to police reports obtained by the Merced Sun-Star.
The post was shared more than 120,000 times and garnered more than 22,500 reactions on Facebook, Colby said.
The police reports reveal how school officials and Gustine police found out about the post, and what Delgado told police about why he made it.
In the comments of the Facebook photo, Delgado reportedly posted “Imma be the next one to shoot up a place I don’t like ghs,” according to reports.
Cruz, 19, was charged with 17 counts of first degree murder for each person he allegedly killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., during a mass shooting spree on Feb. 14.
The shooting, latest in a series of mass school shootings this decade, sparked a national movement led by student survivors demanding stricter gun reform legislation and action from Congress.
Gustine High Principal John Petrone told the Sun-Star that he thinks the awareness surrounding the Parkland shooting helped urge a female student to tell him about Delgado’s post, which she saw from another student, on Feb. 16, according to reports.
Petrone reported the information to the Gustine Police Department that morning.
The student who reported the post told authorities “she felt scared,” according to police reports.
She also told police she didn’t know if anything would happen because of how Delgado’s comment was phrased, according to reports. But she said, “You don’t joke around like this, and you know when someone is joking around or being serious. I took it like Joshua was being serious.”
After authorities found out about the post, police checked out Delgado’s record and found he was on active probation for making threats against the Gustine High vice principal on Sept. 20, 2016, according to the reports. He also was reportedly arrested for criminal threats and battery on Oct. 21, 2017, according to reports.
When Gustine Police arrived at Delgado’s home at 2:50 p.m. that day in the 100 block of Sixth Street in Gustine, an officer positioned himself in an alleyway behind the home because “Joshua has been known to run from the police in the past,” reports state.
As an officer approached the home, Delgado reportedly ran east from the front yard to the backyard and somersaulted over a rear fence, landing on a pile of leaves, according to reports. Another officer pointed a taser at Delgado and he was taken into custody.
A probation search of Delgado’s room revealed no drugs or weapons, according to reports; a cell phone found in a trash can outside the home was positively identified by a family member as Delgado’s phone.
Delgado reportedly told police he ran because he hadn’t checked in with his parole officer in two weeks, reports state. He also told authorities he put a “smiley face” after the post, which he later deleted, and that the post was a joke that he told others on Facebook not to take seriously.
“Why would I like (the Parkland shooter),” he told police, according to reports. “Why would I like the story and why would I say it if I was going to do it.”
Delgado said he was having a bad day when he made the post, and that he did it to “get a reaction out of people,” and wasn’t going to act on it, according to reports.
But Colby said the threat itself was serious enough.
“Whether you intend to go through with it or not, it’s still a crime,” Colby said, noting that the threat is punishable if it invokes fear.
Delgado is expected back in court March 7 for a hearing on violation of probation and a bail review, according to Merced Superior Court records.