In Michigan, a terrorist could be a kid who classmates say was teased and bullied, leading him to threaten to kill more than a dozen people, reports the Detroit Free Press. Some experts say terrorism is not the proper term to apply to threats like the ones Mark O’Berry, 14, is alleged to have made. Police said the boy labeled a piece of notebook paper “Kill list,” and wrote down the names of people he said he would attack with knives and guns — students, teachers, school administrators, and his own mother. Last week, he was charged with threatening terrorism, a crime defined by the legislature in 2002 and prompted by the terrorist attacks of 2001. Before the law was passed, Oakland County prosecutors said there probably would not have been a crime to charge him with.
“What’s been alleged by the police are just words — words on paper, words out of his mouth,” said the suspect’s court-appointed attorney, Ryan Deel. no weapons were found at the O’Berry home, and some officials doubt that the high school freshman would have carried out his plans. Patrick Tolan of the Institute of Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical School, said he’s concerned about labeling students as terrorists. “It’s not a very good idea,” he said. He said that to call a teenager’s threats “terrorism” is a misuse of the term and politicizes the issue. When does teenage angst become a threat? “It’s virtually impossible to distinguish,” said Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca. “I guess in those cases you’re almost asked to play God and interpret cognitive thought processes of teenagers who make these threats. We need to determine if it’s idle or in jest or in fact they have the imminent ability to carry it out.