Source: The Corydon Democrat

Facebook post leads to police search

by Alan Stewart

April 22, 2014

A recent post on the social networking site Facebook and the reaction — or lack thereof — that followed caused a stir in Harrison County last week.

More than two weeks ago, J. William Adams III, 59, of Elizabeth, posted what he called a “tip” on a way to shoot preschool children so as to save ammunition.

According to Adams, “within minutes” Harrison County authorities were notified of the post. After an investigation by the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. and the Harrison County Prosecutor’s Office, it was determined that since Adams did not make a threat, in reference to the post, no crime was committed.

However, during a search of Adams’ home, remnants of marijuana and a glass smoking pipe with marijuana residue were located in a small, green decorative tin. He was then charged with Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia.

“From the instant we learned of the Facebook post, the sheriff’s department and prosecutor’s office initiated an immediate investigation,” Harrison County Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk said. “The sheriff’s department and the prosecutor’s office have no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety of our children.

“No stone was left unturned during this investigation,” he said. “At this point, charges seem unlikely as what was posted falls within the protection of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, the Constitution does not prohibit poor taste.”

At some point, people in Harrison County caught on to what had happened even though Adams immediately deleted the post. One Louisville television station had a small item about the case, which appears to have prompted the story and rumors to spread like wildfire.

The South Harrison Community School Corp. sent home a letter last week that said police “notified school administration about a man in southern Harrison County that had allegedly made threatening comments on Facebook.”

Some parents and preschool owners in the county believe not only should Adams have been arrested, but that they should have been notified sooner of what had been posted.

Contrary to what many people in the community believe, the post did not say Adams planned on shooting children of any age, and he made no threat toward any individual or group of individuals, Schalk said.

“We literally did everything that we are allowed to do,” the prosecutor said. “We did locate four firearms in his home, but they were antiques and display pieces such as muskets and antique rifles. Those firearms remain in the custody of the sheriff’s department.”

“The police investigated the whole thing with my complete and enthusiastic cooperation and came to the conclusion that I did nothing wrong. I’m heartbroken about it,” Adams said. “Anyone who knows me knows that comment was completely out of character. That was figured out pretty quickly.”

Adams said the post was made when he drew attention to a facility in Illinois that was training non-law enforcement personnel to use submachine guns and SWAT techniques.

“They weren’t vetting people or anything. They were training anyone who could pay their fee to enter buildings and move and shoot like a SWAT team. That’s terrifying. People have a right to protect their homes, I’m supportive of that, but I see no reason why a civilian needs to be trained to breach doors, shoot submachine guns and clear buildings. That’s a police function,” Adams said. “Something was very wrong with what they were doing so I called attention to it.”

Adams says he typically posts pictures of food and funny pet photographs.

Asked what he could say to possibly ease the minds of the public — some parents said they may keep their children out of preschool and multiple classrooms in schools in the county had intruder drills — Adams said his post was a huge misunderstanding that alert Harrison County deputies got to the bottom of in minutes.

“If people are going to continue to be upset with someone who was falsely accused (of making a threat) and then completely exonerated, I’m not sure what I could say,” Adams said.

When told about the public’s concern, Adams said he was horrified.

“That was why I cooperated so enthusiastically. I’m a church volunteer; my wife just died of cancer. This has landed unjustly on my shoulders, and I have tried to help authorities in every way I can and will continue to do so,” Adams said. “The fact that I have been tried and convicted in the public forum for something like this is unjust, but no one ever said life was fair.”

Adams’ initial court date for his drug charges is scheduled for May 29 at 9 a.m.