After educators, scientists and concerned people on social media spoke out in support of Kiera Wilmot, 16, the student at Florida’s Bartow High School who caused a small explosion inside of a water bottle and faced felony charges, the State Attorney’s Office announced this afternoon that she will not be prosecuted, reports The Orlando Sentinel.
“The pending case has been dismissed. No formal charges will be filed,” read the office’s statement.
On the morning of Monday, April 20, Kiera mixed some household chemicals inside of an 8 oz. bottle of water. The top flew off the bottle and a cloud of smoke erupted.
There was no damage caused and no one was injured, but Kiera was led away in handcuffs and faced possible charges of “possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device.”
“She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone,” principal Ron Pritchard told WTSP. “She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked, too.”
Kiera was expelled, served a 10-day suspension and will have to complete her diploma in an expulsion program.
Watch Kiera’s case here:
The Orlando Sentinel reports:
The office of State Attorney Jerry Hill, whose jurisdiction includes Polk, said that it extended “an offer of diversion of prosecution to the child,” typically a probationary-like program that allows the youngster to perform community service or meet other conditions and then avoid a criminal record.
Brian Haas, an assistant state attorney and spokesman for the office, said he could not provide details of a diversion-program agreement reached in a juvenile’s case. But he said the teenager and her guardian had signed the agreement.
Hardaway said Kiera and her mother were both relieved and the teenager was “very happy” her case was dismissed. No one answered the phone at Kiera’s Bartow home Wednesday afternoon.
Hardaway said he will turn his attention now to helping Kiera avoid expulsion and return to Bartow High for the next school year.
Leah Lauderdale, a spokesman for the Polk County school district, sent a statement that read: “The Polk County School District will take the State Attorney’s decision into consideration in determining what, if any, further disciplinary action is appropriate.”
Maggie Gilman, an Oregon woman who started an online petition on Change.org that received over 195,000 signatures, said that she was thrilled by the news:
“I’m so excited to hear that the charges against Kiera have been dropped and that she can now start to move on with her life,” said Gilman, in a statement released by Change.org. “Even though I don’t have the privilege of knowing Kiera, I believe we all have the responsibility to stand up with one another whenever there is injustice and felt I had to do whatever I could to make sure the unjust felony charges were dropped.”
In an exclusive investigative piece, NewsOne Senior Editor, Abena Agyeman-Fisher reported on the deeply entrenched racism that led to Kiera’s arrest in the first place. Assistant State Attorney Tammy Glotfelty, who advised Officer Gregory Rhoden to charge 16-year-old Kiera with a felony, decided not to bring any charges against 13-year-old Taylor Richardson, who is — unsurprisingly — White. Richardson mistakenly killed his younger brother with a BB gun, but Glotfelty deemed his case to be a “tragic accident.”
“From the information presented, I do not see how the District Attorney can justify the charge against Kiera when compared to the case of the 13 year old who shot his brother with a BB gun,” Attorney Eric L. Welch Guster, Managing Attorney of Guster Law Firm said in an exclusive interview with NewsOne. “Looking at the case with the BB gun death, the District Attorney’s office stated, ‘It is our opinion that this case can only be seen as a tragic accident.”
“Mind you, he was playing with a gun that shoots projectiles. The same seems true for Kiera and her science experiment. That experiment was an accident.
“The 13-year-old brother killed someone, who happened to be his brother. Kiera did not kill nor harm anyone when she was experimenting with her project. Although she should not have mixed the chemicals, it was an accident WITHOUT TRAGEDY and she is being charged with felonies.”
Read more of this investigative report by clicking here.
Hardaway said that he is going to have to work to have Kiera’s arrest record expunged.
While the news that she will not be formally charged is, indeed, a victory, we still have much work to do when it comes to preventing these institutionalized racist attacks on our children to continue.