The 17-year-old Buchholz High School (BHS) student arrested on Monday in connection with two of four recent bomb threats used his grandmother’s phone account to make the calls.
According to the arrest report obtained by Mainstreet Daily News by a public records request, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) evaluated phone account information from tips made about the Aug. 19 and Sept. 7 threats that were delivered via the Suspicious Activity Reporting App know as FortifyFL.
Another threat regarding a suicidal student in a certain classroom was made via the same tips app from the same phone on Aug. 16. The report states that the ACSO responded to the classroom, but “no suicidal persons were located and the classroom was deemed safe.”
The Florida Legislature created and funded the FortifyFL app in 2018 as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. It was designed to receive anonymous tips about suspicious activity that could be instantly relayed to law enforcement and school officials.
At least two of the BHS threats came from one account that was identified as belonging to suspect Preston Powers’ grandmother, the report states.
On Sept. 13, the ACSO responded to the grandmother’s address in Gainesville and executed a search warrant. In that search, authorities located a cellphone in Powers’ bedroom, according to the report.
The ACSO spoke with Powers’ grandmother and she gave them his cellphone number, which matched the information the ACSO gleaned from FortifyFL tips.
When a forensic examiner for the ACSO searched the phone, they discovered messages between Powers and an unknown party on Snapchat.
One message sent on Sept. 9 allegedly by Powers “disclosed that he had called in a bomb threat to get out of a test,” the report states.
The message went on to say the “whole school got evacuated.”
Upon further review of the phone history, the examiner discovered that Powers accessed FortifyFL on Aug. 19 at 1:25 p.m., about 12 minutes before the first tip was received.
“I have placed 2 explosives in the school building made of gunpowder, match heads and an electrical charge,” the tip said. “This is not a joke.”
Another tip was received minutes later, at 1:40 p.m., according to the report.
“Stupid told me he has pipe bombs,” the tip said.
As a result, the ACSO report states, “the school was evacuated and no bombs were located, after an exhaustive search by personnel.”
The report states that school security footage showed Powers on his phone around the time of a second tip received that same day at 1:40 p.m.
On Sept. 9, an ACSO detective was notified by a BHS school resource officer that a student had been suspended for throwing paper balls in a classroom and that the incident happened in the same classroom where a suicidal student was reported as being on Aug. 16. That student turned out to be Powers.
It was putting together those two incidents—the suicidal student report and the paper ball suspension—that led the ACSO to identify Powers as a person of interest in the bomb threats case.
According to the report, Powers was arrested on Sept. 13 without incident. He was “charged with two counts of unlawful use of a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony and two counts of making a false report with intent to mislead persons into believing a deadly explosive was planted within the school.”
On Friday (Sept. 17) ACSO Spokesperson Capt. Kaley Behl said Powers, “is still being held in the Juvenile Detention Center in a secure detention.”
The report states that an investigation is ongoing in regards to the two other bomb-related threats received at BHS on Sept. 1 and Sept. 2.