Miami man who threatened Escondido schools sentenced

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — A then-17-year-old boy who made an online threat that closed four Escondido charter schools for a day in 2014 was sentenced to a boot camp for juvenile offenders and could be sent to prison if he doesn’t complete the program, an Escondido police lieutenant announced Tuesday.

Fernando Morales, now 20, of Miami, posed as a local teen and posted that the Escondido Charter High School would be “shot up” on Jan. 17, 2014.

When the threat was first made, police believed it came from an Escondido youth and “deemed this threat to be a credible threat of violence and immediately notified the staff at the school,” Escondido police Lt. Justin Murphy said. “For the safety of the students and staff, all school activities were canceled for that day.”

The threat, which claimed the high school would come under “a barrage of bullets,” also prompted administrators to cancel classes at three other American Heritage schools — Heritage K-8 Charter, Heritage Digital Academy Middle School and Heritage Digital Academy High School.

Police soon traced the message to a student of another local school but determined that youth was not the responsible party, but rather “a victim of a very malicious personal attack of identity theft,” Lt. Neal Griffin said at the time.

Months later, Escondido police detectives determined the threat was sent by Morales, and on March 18 of that year, an Escondido detective flew to Miami to interview the teen and serve a search warrant alongside the FBI.

“The suspect … confessed to the crime and was referred to the Florida State Attorney’s Office for adjudication,” Murphy said Tuesday morning.

Last month, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office contacted the Escondido detective to inform him Morales was sentenced “to a state-sanctioned boot camp for youth offenders as punishment for his crime,” Murphy said.

Failure to complete the camp could result in prison time, Florida prosecutors told the detective.

“The Escondido Police Department wants the public to know that all crimes committed against our community members will be thoroughly investigated, no matter where the suspect resides, and will seek prosecution to the fullest extent of the law,” Murphy said.