For a while at least, Ishmael Harrison derailed his own forward progress.
Less than four months away from graduating from Fairfax High, his future looked bright. He played football and lacrosse for his school and had a scholarship to LSU. Then he made threats against his school.
Harrison’s action led to an arrest and jail time. And if he doesn’t walk the straight and narrow some or all of the suspended prison sentence he recently received could be imposed and he’d be back behind bars.
The trouble began Feb. 21, when Harrison, an 18-year-old senior, sent out anonymous tweets threatening harm, the next day, to Fairfax High students, school personnel and police. Fortunately for everyone concerned – including him – he didn’t carry out his plans. But his threats scared many students and parents; and as a result, a large number of students stayed home that day.
HARRISON’S ACTIONS also constituted a felony. And on June 11, in Fairfax County Circuit Court, he pleaded guilty to making threats to commit serious bodily harm to persons on school property. Answering specific questions from Judge Penney Azcarate, the teen admitted that he was entering his plea because he was, in fact, guilty.
Explaining the prosecution’s case against Harrison, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Holt said that, on Feb. 21, around 3:45 p.m., Harrison sent the following tweets – (minus some profanity, but typed as they appeared) – from his cellphone while on school grounds:
“2/22/18 i am coming and no one can stop me, be prepared. I SWEAR ON MY DAMN LIFE I AM COMING AND THE COPS CAN GET IT TOO.
“I hate that damn school so much. i hate the people and all the students there. You guys suspended me for skipping. I have been planning this for months now and now i am going to act. Better watch out Fairfax.”
Accompanying the tweets was a picture of an AR15 assault rifle. And according to Fairfax City police, officers found 200 rounds of ammunition for an AR15 in Harrison’s home when they executed a search warrant there on March 2. Police also discovered a video of Harrison doing target practice at a shooting range.
Students reading these tweets immediately told the school’s police SRO (school resource officer), administration and their parents, and police began investigating. But the damage was done because Harrison’s chilling words sent shockwaves of fear throughout the school community.
“There were dozens of tweets in return,” said Holt. “And 1,601 students were absent the following day.” Taking the threats seriously, on Feb. 22, police posted officers at all City schools.
ON MARCH 3, police identified Harrison as the person who’d sent the tweets. Furthermore, they provided his age, descriptions of both him and his car, and his license-plate number, to the public. They obtained arrest warrants for him, said he should be considered “armed and dangerous” and urged anyone seeing him or knowing where he was to contact them.
In a news release the next day, police asked Harrison to turn himself in; and on March 5, he did. He was then arrested and held without bond in the Adult Detention Center. Police also charged him with one count of possession of child pornography after allegedly finding pornographic images of a juvenile on his electronics.
Harrison appeared in General District Court on April 30 before Judge Susan Stoney and waived his right to a preliminary hearing. At that time, his pornography charge was dropped. But on May 21, he was indicted by the grand jury on the threat charge.
After Harrison’s guilty plea, Azcarate remanded him back to jail to await sentencing on Aug. 17. At that time, he returned to court and was sentenced to five years in prison, with all of that time suspended, except for what he’d already served in jail. He was also placed on three years’ supervised probation.