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A twist in 2007 threats made to Countryside High School

A gun dealer's plea agreement reveals an intriguing twist on an incident that roiled Countryside High School twice in the past three years amid fears of a Columbine-like massacre.

In 2007, a 15-year-old boy was removed from Countryside High after he threatened classmates on the Internet. The teen had indicated he would re-create the Columbine High School massacre there on the 11th anniversary of the Colorado shooting, which was April 20, 2010.

In April, Clearwater police established a sizeable presence at the school "as a precaution'' even though no new threats had been made. Still, more than half the student body stayed away from school on April 20.

Now, a previously unreported element in the story has emerged from the investigation of Nik Djokic, 29, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of dealing in firearms without a license and to sale of a firearm to a felon.

In January, three months before Clearwater police turned out in force at Countryside on the Columbine tragedy anniversary, 18-year-old Joseph David Kenny tried to buy a .40 caliber Glock pistol from Djokic, according to information in Djokic's plea agreement.

Authorities learned about the attempted sale because deputies were dispatched to Bally Fitness Center in Clearwater after reports of two suspicious people in a vehicle with a gun. The transaction never went down because Pinellas County deputies intervened.

Kenny, now 19, has never been arrested or charged with a crime, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Tom Nestor.

But, according to the Sheriff's Office report of the attempted gun sale, Kenny had been Baker Acted in the past "for making homicidal/suicidal statements that he wanted to recreate a Columbine-like shooting incident at Countryside High School in Clearwater."

Reached at his home Wednesday night, Kenny acknowledged the 2007 incident that disrupted Countryside.

"It was a mistake," he said. "It was a bad period. I was only 14 or 15. I didn't know how to cope."

Regarding his attempted purchase of a gun earlier this year, Kenny said he had no intention of hurting anyone. "It was just to go to the shooting range just as a hobby," he said.

That mirrors what Kenny told deputies. He said his problems at Countryside arose because he was picked on by kids in school and had no friends, but that he no longer has those feelings. He said he wanted the gun for "target practice" or "home defense." He also said he wanted it because he had a new hobby, collecting guns, and that he had bought a Glock 9 mm handgun two months earlier.

The Sheriff's Office created a "hot file" on Kenny and his home. The file provides deputies with information about prior law enforcement contact, Nestor said.

Clearwater police spokeswoman Beth Watts said she couldn't comment about whether the attempted gun sale influenced the department's decision to beef up patrols at the school earlier this year. Such information would be considered "intelligence," she said. Police were there as a "precautionary measure" because of the prior threat, she said.

In February, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives obtained information that Djokic was a non-licensed firearms dealer who was trafficking in firearms, federal court records show. He initially landed on the radar of law enforcement after he tried to sell Kenny the gun.

Djokic then told deputies that he sold guns at Bally because he wanted to be safe and do the sale in a public place. Deputies lectured him about selling a firearm to someone he does not know.

Djokic reportedly told them it was an eye-opening experience and he never thought about it beyond just selling his property for cash.

For several months after that, federal authorities tracked Djokic, who they arrested in August, after he traded a .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol, a .38 caliber, a 12-gauge pump shotgun and 300 rounds of ammunition for a pound of marijuana.

Here are other events that led to Djokic's arrest, according to federal court records:

• Djokic sold at least 11 firearms to confidential informants. In one of those cases, Djokic sold an informant two guns, including a Ruger 9 mm semiautomatic pistol, and Winchester 9 mm Black Talon ammunition that he described as "cop killers" because they would go through Kevlar, a synthetic fiber used in body armor.

• Authorities also received intelligence that Djokic was using Internet forums such as Glock Talk, Florida Gun Trader and Tampa Forums to sell firearms.

• One search of his postings showed about 85 firearms, mostly high quality and expensive ones, for sale, some with list prices as high as $1,800.

According to the plea agreement, he admitted he owned and sold between 25 and 99 weapons.

The count of dealing without a license carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and the other count carries a maximum of 10 years. A sentencing date has not been set.

A few years ago, when he lived in Jacksonville, Djokic started a Myspace page. He called himself "OAG: Original Albanian Gangsta."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155. Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

A twist in 2007 threats made to Countryside High School 12/01/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 8:06pm]
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