Missouri National Guardsman charged with terror threats at Sedalia school
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Friday, November 20, 2009 4:42 pm
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Nov. 20, 2009) — A Missouri National Guardsman in training to become a military truck driver faces charges of making a terrorist threat in a school near Whiteman Air Force Base.
According to court records, the trainee, Pfc. Michael John Frederick, 19, went into a Sedalia high school during a Saturday evening event and told the superintendent that the Army had told him to warn area schools that escaped prisoners might be trying to kidnap students.
Frederick was wearing his military uniform when he made his warning about escaped inmates. However, there were no escaped inmates and he hadn’t received an order from the Army to warn school personnel. In fact, Frederick was absent without leave from the 58th Transportation Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood. Frederick had completed his basic training and was in the advanced individual training portion of his preparation for military service.
It wasn’t immediately clear from Fort Leonard Wood or Missouri National Guard sources how long Frederick had been AWOL. Trainees in AIT have greater privileges after completing basic training, and in Frederick’s case, he was a Kansas City resident and was still a member of the Missouri National Guard’s recruit sustainment program in St. Joseph.
According to Missouri National Guard spokesman Matthew Wilson, Frederick joined the Missouri National Guard in February 2008.
“The current situation is a civilian law enforcement matter and we are working in full support of local authorities,” Wilson said.
The charges may not remain a civilian matter. Civilian prosecutors sometimes relinquish jurisdiction over Fort Leonard Wood soldiers who are charged with serious off-post crimes since the military penalties available through courts-martial are often stiffer than those which can be imposed through the civilian justice system.
According to court records, the Pettis County prosecutor has charged Frederick with making a terrorist threat, which is a Class D felony punishable by up to four years in state prison and a $5,000 fine.
“Making a terrorist threat” doesn’t only include the types of offenses typically considered to be terrorism. According to the charge filed in Pettis County Circuit Court, Frederick “with reckless disregard of the risk of causing the evacuation, quarantine or closure of any portion of a building … communicated a threat to cause an incident or condition involving danger to life.”
The probable cause statement filed by police indicates that Frederick went to Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia on Saturday while a fundraiser was in process and asked to speak to a principal. He was directed to the Sedalia superintendent “and told him that six escaped convicts were on the loose, and that he had been instructed by the Army to warn all the schools in the area that were having large functions that evening to be on the lookout for them” because “some of the convicts may be wanting to take little kids as hostages.”
Frederick also spoke to several students, according to court documents, and according to law enforcement personnel in the building, “was acting weird.”
Frederick said he “had driven 250 miles that night and had other places to go,” and was allowed to leave the school premises but subsequently identified by use of closed circuit cameras in the building. Others in the building identified him as a person they’d seen in uniform assisting with recruiting duty for the military.
Law enforcement personnel in the Sedalia area contacted personnel with the Army, Air Force, and Missouri Department of Corrections, and verified that there had been no inmate escapes and Frederick had never been directed by the Army to contact schools to warn them of potential danger to students.
Frederick was found on Thursday in Clay County while he was dropping off a girlfriend at a local high school, detained for questioning, and according to court reports, admitted to being absent without leave and that he “did tell subjects at the high school that there were several escaped inmates and that they were possibly coming to the school to kidnap or take students hostage.”