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Palm Coast Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 7 months ago

Deputies ID man who tried to access Wadsworth Elementary, made comment about shootings

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The man is not considered a threat, according to a Sheriff's Office news release.

The Flagler County Sheriff's Office asked the community to be on the lookout Nov. 29 after a man who tried to gain access to Wadsworth Elementary School and wouldn't provide ID alarmed school staff by making a comment about school shootings.

Now deputies know who he is.

The man, identified by the Sheriff's Office's patrol unit, is Palm Coast resident Ronnie Niemela, according to a Sheriff's Office news release. Deputies have interviewed him and do not consider him a threat. No charges have been filed against him.

The incident came to the Sheriff 's Office's attention Nov. 29 when the Sheriff 's Office's dispatch center received a call about a suspicious person at Wadsworth Elementary School, according to the news release.

The man who would ultimately be identified as Niemela was trying to access the school to attend its book fair, which was open to the public. But schools require people who enter to provide ID, and when school staff asked to see his identification, "he became confrontational and made an inappropriate comment about school shootings in general before leaving the area," according to the Sheriff's Office's news release. He did not have children at the school and was not an employee. 

School staff notified the school's school resource deputy, who began an investigation. The Sheriff's Office also posted on its Facebook page school surveillance camera photos of Niemela and his vehicle, asking the community for information on identifying him.

Within 24 hours, Deputy Jay Rodenborn identified Niemela's vehicle. Deputies then contacted Niemela at his home, according to the news release.

“We take the safety of our children in Flagler County very seriously, especially in our schools,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “I am very proud of the investigative work done by Deputy Rodenborn and the rest of our team to identify this guy. I also want to thank everyone who shared our Facebook post and sent us tips. Unfortunately, in this day and age we have to follow every single lead because you can never be certain of a person’s intentions. Make no mistake, if you make an inappropriate comment or a threat in Flagler County you will receive a visit from the Sheriff’s Office.” 

Anyone who would like to submit a tip to the Sheriff's Office can do so by using the FCSO app or by emailing [email protected].

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