Threats or jokes? Jurors to decide if ex-Dunbar student intended to shoot up school with AR-15.

Timothy Felker
Timothy Felker Fayette County Detention Center

During opening statements in the trial of a man accused of threatening to shoot up a Lexington high school, the defense claimed the “threats” were considered jokes, while the prosecution said classmates who reported the statements had reasons for concern.

The trial of Timothy Felker, 19, a former Paul Laurence Dunbar High School student, began Monday. Felker was charged last year with second-degree terroristic threatening, and if found guilty, he could face up to five years in prison.

During opening statements, Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn argued Felker intended to carry out the threats at Dunbar while his defense attorney said Felker wasn’t serious.

Felker admitted threatening to kill students from October 2017 to January 2018, when he purchased an AR-15 rifle with about 90 rounds of ammunition, Red Corn said. Days later, he bought a gun cleaning kit and 450 rounds of ammunition.

The prosecution said Felker had posted photos of the gun to social media, which reportedly prompted some students to submit tips about him threatening to shoot up the school, shoot individual students or shoot himself. Police and school officials were alerted through a school tip line.

Police were originally going to meet with Felker on a school day, but after seeing the photos of the gun, decided to stop by his mother’s house over a weekend, the prosecution and defense agreed in remarks to jurors. When police arrived, Felker’s mother assumed the visit was about the gun and spoke with detectives about her son.

Felker was in Chicago when detectives visited the house. Immediately after his flight home landed at Blue Grass Airport, he was found by police and interviewed for about an hour in an airport room, the prosecution and defense agreed.

During that interview, Felker initially told police he did not make any threats, then claimed he could not remember if he had made threats and eventually admitted to threatening from October to December in 2017 to shoot up the school, prosecutor Red Corn told jurors Monday. The defense repeated that series of events in its remarks to jurors.

Both the prosecution and defense said Felker had struggled with depression, anger and self-mutilation.

The defense claimed after therapy and medication, Felker was recovering but still had a hard time fitting in.

Nevertheless, students knew Felker wasn’t serious about the threats, the defense said. The threats were nothing more than dark humor.

The prosecution maintained that some students feared Felker would carry out his threats. One student said she heard Felker make more frequent threats after the school shootings in Parkland, Fla., and Marshall County in Kentucky.

Another student said the threats initially sounded like a joke but began to appear more serious, Red Corn said. The escalation of threats to purchasing the gun shows Felker intended to take action, the prosecutor said.

The trial is set to resume at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader