An 18-year-old Pasco County high school student faces charges of first degree solicitation to attempt murder after offering $100,000 for a hit on a Fivay High staff member.
Pasco sheriff’s deputies arrested Nicholas R. Godfrey late Thursday after tracing an Instagram account with the request for “a guy who could kill someone” to a computer IP address at Godfrey’s home, according to the arrest report.
Authorities said Godfrey offered $100,000 to another student for the unnamed staff member’s head.
“No joke, I need him eliminated as soon as possible,” Godfrey wrote, according to the affidavit.
At a Friday afternoon news conference, Sheriff Chris Nocco said the teen had no known past problems with the staff member, who was provided protection as a precaution. Also, Godfrey did not appear to have the means or the intent to carry out the threat, which he suggested to detectives was just joking around, Nocco said.
“It doesn’t matter what the intent was,” the sheriff said. “When you do it and post it on social media, the crime is committed.”
Godfrey was taken to the county jail.
Nocco and schools superintendent Kurt Browning stressed that they take every such incident seriously, and that they cannot make it more plain that children must understand the consequences that come with threatening violence against schools, students and staff members.
“I’m tired of meeting with the press and the public announcing the foolishness of the behavior that goes on with some of our kids,” Browning said, calling some of the social media activity “destructive.”
He praised law enforcement for its quick action, and said the arrest was justified and welcomed. But he also lamented “what this young man has done to the rest of his life.”
Browning urged parents to pay more attention to what their children are doing on social media, and to help maintain civility in the schools and the larger society.
Nocco noted that Godfrey’s parents were “shocked” by their son’s messages, which detectives said the teen admitted to sending, and had no idea any such conversations were taking place. According to the sheriff’s office affidavit, Godfrey also “freely provided a written statement” documenting his solicitation, along with the electronic equipment he used to send the messages.
School district officials said he will be recommended for expulsion.
The arrest comes at the tail end of what Browning called a “rough week” for Fivay High. The school has experienced fights and defiant behavior among a “riff raff of approximately 13 people that were doing the wrong thing,” Nocco said.
As a result, the sheriff’s office sent out a display of force, including about a dozen officers and canine units, to demonstrate it will have zero tolerance for that type of behavior, Nocco said. Going forward, the office will assign a second resource officer to the campus to help maintain order.
The school district, meanwhile, has adopted a stricter stance on fighting at Fivay, with plans to expel anyone caught in the act, Browning said.
He said he has scheduled a meeting with school leaders for next week, to discuss ways to further improve the campus culture. Principal Jason Joens already has bolstered the rules and their enforcement, and the situation is slowly improving, Browning said.
Joens and other school officials also expect to meet with parents, some of whom have complained directly to the School Board, during an upcoming school advisory council meeting.
Afterward, Browning said, a larger community conversation might be in order.
“I want folks to tell me what is going on,” he said. “We want to problem solve around what is going on at Fivay High School.”