“Charles Manson sends him Christmas cards," sheriff's Lt. Mike Burzumato said about the juvenile homicide expert who presented a program about teen violence last week at Nature Coast Technical High School.
Phil Chalmers — author, speaker, police trainer and television personality — has interviewed many, if not all, living teenage killers, Burzumato said, "and the big issue behind it all is bullying."
Chalmers was accompanied by his longtime friend and associate, rapper L.G. Wise, who performed for the students and encouraged them to have dreams. He overcame some tough times, including jail.
"Prison was my college," Wise said after the show. "I wanted to go in the opposite direction."
Chalmers greeted the young people by telling them "the coolest thing I do is speaking to students."
The other young people he speaks with are no longer in school, he explained.
"I deal with killers," he said. "I spend a lot of time on death row."
He goes to schools to try to prevent killing. He talked about bullying and showed slides. One of those informed the students: "90 percent of school shooters were bullied at school."
"Barry Loukaitis is a little kid. He weighs 85 pounds," Chalmers said, showing a slide of the killer of three people in a junior high school shooting in 1996.
Chalmers said Loukaitis walked into the school, shot his bully, then the teacher and then the front row of students.
"Barry Loukaitis went to prison at age 15."
Chalmers said there are always innocent bystanders hurt when a shooter goes after a bully, the main target.
"If you're a bully, you're doing something very dangerous," he said.
There should be zero tolerance for bullying, he suggested, and told the students that if they are bully followers and supporters, or even onlookers or witnesses, and do nothing, they are guilty.
Chalmers' presentation included suggestions about how to be safe. He told the students that sex at their age is not safe. Tobacco kills 1,200 people a day. Marijuana can cause testicular cancer in young men. Inhalants can melt brains. Crystal methamphetamine melts teeth. And alcohol kills 3,000 teens every year. He showed horrifying slides to drive home his points.
He warned them against texting themselves in a sexual manner.
"Sexting is a felony and is actually child pornography," he said.
He told students, especially girls, to fight and scream if they are accosted.
"Don't cooperate with the bad guy," he said. "I'm tired of seeing dead kids, I'm tired of seeing dead kids in the bushes."
Nature Coast senior Alexis Riani, 18, watched the presentation and said: "I knew there were things out there like this, but not as bad as it is."
She said she has been bullied and that a lot of rumor-spreading goes on around her.
"They try to ruin my relationship all the time," she said.
Sophomore Chris Copeland, 15, said the presentation "exposed me to a lot of things I really didn't know went on around here. It was really revealing. The message was positive. Hopefully, everybody can learn something out of it."
Junior Gabrielle Arma, 16, had a similar impression.
"It was very positive, and hopefully it opens some people's minds," she said.
Chalmers and Wise appeared at Nature Coast through the coordination of the school administration and the school's resource officer, sheriff's Deputy Jason Deso. It was funded by the Student Government Association. Besides the two assemblies, Wise gave a concert that evening.