Peoria seventh-grader jailed for flashlight-bomb hoax

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PEORIA, Ariz. -- At Cotton Boll Elementary in Peoria Wednesday, the school day started with a lockdown.

"Students came into the office and did speak to the principal, telling them that they thought there was an object that they should be concerned about," said Peoria Unified School District spokeswoman Danielle Airey.

That object was a flashlight, placed in the park right next to the school. Normally, that's not a big deal, but with Glendale's two exploding flashlight bombs fresh in their minds, the principal called police.

"We sent officers and ultimately called out the Glendale Bomb Squad and they ultimately called out ATF," said Peoria Police Department spokesman Jay Davies.

Response teams quickly discovered the flashlight was no bomb. The investigation turned back to the kids, and the seventh-grade boy who police say started it all.

"Kids were approaching the device in the park, which is where kids hang out before school, asking him, 'Hey, what is that?' And he would plant the seed by saying, 'Oh, it looks like one of those flashlight bombs," Davies said.

Police believe the 12-year-old found a flashlight similar to those used in the Glendale crimes at his home and he brought it to the park before school as a prank.

"This was a huge response to this incident, so if his goal was to draw that level of attention, he certainly accomplished that goal," Davies said.

For that reason, he's now in juvenile custody, facing charges for disrupting the school day and for misconduct involving a weapon.

"That's really sad being in that situation, that age, but that's really scary," said Maria Nielson, who lives near the elementary and has two grandsons who attend class there.

She's using this to remind the boys what types of jokes are funny, and what could land them in serious trouble.

"It's really not funny at all, you know," she said. "I try to teach them to be decent, good, not joking around with something serious."