On August 22, Lucas Gerhard sent a picture of his AR-15 to his close friends on Snapchat. He captioned the photo, “Takin this bad boy up, this outta make the snowflakes melt, aye? And I mean snowflakes as in snow ;).”
When he arrived for his fall classes at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, he went to the public safety department to have the rifle and 240 rounds of ammunition registered and secured.
On August 24, Gerhard was arrested on the charge of making a terrorist threat, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Court documents revealed that two students went to the Lake Superior State public safety department concerned about Gerhard’s Snapchat the same day he shared it. They stated that he had “extreme political views” and that he could pose a risk to the school.
The director alerted Sault Ste. Marie police.
According to the school’s security officials, this was not the first time they had contact with Gerhard. In one incident, downstate law enforcement had received an anonymous tip that Gerhard was a potential school shooter.
After he was arrested, Gerhard told a police officer that by “snowflake” he meant Democrats or liberals, and that “melt” referred to their “minds melting” after they learned he brought an AR-15 to the campus.
Michigan State Rep. Beau Matthew LaFave, a Republican, called the Chippewa County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Stratton III on Tuesday, asking him to drop the charges.
LaFave wrote on Facebook: “Lucas was a 19-year-old LSSU Student studying to become a police officer when his school, the police, and prosecutors decided to turn his life upside-down over a joke. You may not like what Lucas said, but he is NOT a terrorist. His post was protected political speech under the First Amendment. Elected Prosecutors should know the difference.”
On the same Tuesday, a press conference was held near the state Capitol, where Republican Rep. John Reilly, Michigan Open Carry President Tom Lambert and Gerhard’s father, Mark Gerhard, stated that they were introducing a legislation to redefine what constitutes a terrorist threat.
Reilly said, “I never thought our society was so fragile that someone’s life could be ruined for telling a joke among friends. It’s a travesty that the county prosecutor charged him with any crime, for something that is clearly and undeniably protected speech under the First Amendment.”
Gerhard spent 83 days in jail before he was released on bail.