After a boy's gun threat caused Orono schools to go on lockdown last week, the local community is choosing to react with compassion, not condemnation.
Almost $20,000 has been raised through a GoFundMe campaign for the family of the boy responsible for a social media post threatening gun violence at an Orono school, just days after a mass school shooting claimed 17 lives in Florida.
The fundraiser was started by Claire Berrett on behalf of the Johnson family, who reveals that the boy in question, Jake, is on the autism spectrum, and that the threat was made "in frustration with a group discussion regarding school safety, without the benefit of impulse control."
"There was no intention, nor the means, to carry out the threat," she writes.
Johnson's name has not been formally released by authorities as he's a juvenile, but Berrett, an Orono schools parent herself, says in her post she has the family's permission to share their information.
He's 'despondent' in juvenile detention
She writes that the doctors who treat his autism say children and adolescents on the spectrum "do not have the language or social skills to adequately express their social emotional needs."
"When verbal or written threats are made, they are usually an attempt to express the severity of the adolescent's distress," she writes. "It is not necessarily a true indication of a desire to hurt themselves or others."
She says he is "deeply broken" and "despondent" while he's being held at the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center, where his "special needs condition prevents him from coping with his detention."
"Orono is a compassionate community. The Johnson family needs our support right now. So many have reached out to offer to bring meals, to pray for them, and wonder how they can help. They will need help with legal expenses, medical expenses, lost wages, and other tangible impacts. Please consider opening your hearts, offering forgiveness and compassion to this family in crisis, and making a donation of any amount."
Speaking to the Star Tribune on Sunday, Berrett said: "We just felt a lot of compassion and wanted to lift up a family that’s going through an incredible challenge."