Man made threats against Utah school to ‘bring awareness’ to school shootings, charges say
May 9, 2023, 6:25 PM | Updated: May 21, 2023, 4:24 pm
NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah — A North Salt Lake resident who said he was only trying to raise public awareness about school shootings is facing criminal charges for accusing him of posting a video on social media during which he seems to encourage shooters to join him, and then entering the school and allegedly assaulting an employee.
Penelope Rosanne Howard, who goes by the name Thomas Dillie, 36, is charged in 2nd District Court with making threats against a school, assaulting a school employee, drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia, class A misdemeanors; plus trespassing and interfering with an arrest, class B misdemeanors.
On April 13, Howard entered Spectrum Academy, 665 Cutler Drive in North Salt Lake, without permission, “assaulted the school administrator and refused to leave when asked to do so. Howard was a former employee of the school and is familiar with the school’s active shooter drills, policies and procedures,” according to charging documents.
Police discovered after Howard was arrested that a video had been posted on Facebook in which Howard “states in an aggressive and angry manner that he is a transgender male who has been betrayed by his entire family and the state,” the charges say. “Howard goes on to state that, ‘The world will hear me if it kills me, because I will not win a legal battle in Utah as a trans-man and I know it.’ Howard then states, ‘Someone is going to come over to North Salt Lake Spectrum Academy where they are shooting kids or they would if they could. Someone’s going to help me. Now. Right now.'”
Police say the video prompted the Spectrum Academy to take extra precautions, including employing a security guard for additional protection.
When Howard entered the school, he went to the office of a school administrator where he “aggressively” began arguing with the administrator and threw a book at his head, the charges allege.
“Howard was repeatedly told to leave and refused to do so. Howard threatened that, ‘It would be a shame if there were an active shooter at the school.’ This was of particular concern because Howard, as a former employee, had participated in and was aware of the school’s active shooter drills and practices and this knowledge would place the school and children in heightened danger,” according to the charges.
When officers arrived at the school, Howard refused to get off the floor and leave “and instead, read (his) book and acted as though (he) were a character from Harry Potter,” the charges state. “Howard was then bodily carried out of the school and physically searched.”
It wasn’t until the next day, after the video on Howard’s Facebook page was seen by another school official, that police were called again and went to his house to reinterview Howard.
When questioned by police, Howard allegedly stated he “did not intend on influencing anyone,” rather his “intent was to cause a peaceful protest at the school and bring awareness about school shootings.”
“Howard reported (he) felt the school was like a prison and the children at the school could be killed easily,” police wrote in a search warrant affidavit. “Howard reported (he) was protesting the school system and guns.”
When officers asked if Howard “understood that (his) actions of sneaking in and throwing objects at school official would cause alarm,” he replied that he was “going to be nice to school staff” but was very upset about gun violence.
“Howard stated (he) understood that it appeared (he) was going to shoot up the school, but (stated), ‘I didn’t, did I?’ Howard stated the video was a call for protest,” according to the warrant, though he admitted that he “never asked for protest in the video.”
During Howard’s arraignment last week, his attorney noted he intends to petition the court for a competency examination for his client. A competency review hearing is scheduled for June 22.