BROOKSVILLE – Yesterday, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis appeared in a rare in-person press conference alongside School District Superintended John Stratton to discuss incidents involving a firearm used by Springstead High School students
According to Nienhuis, the chain of events started back on January 12th, when a deputy conducted a traffic stop on a stolen vehicle at Mariner Cay Apartments. When the deputy approached the vehicle, the suspect who Nienhuis says was 16-year-old Aaron McKinney, shoved the deputy and fled on foot. During the pursuit, McKinney circled back around and fled in the same stolen vehicle. A vehicle pursuit ensued which led deputies south on Mariner Blvd and into the Seven Hills neighborhood. The pursuit was called off after McKinney was observed driving recklessly through yards and nearly striking homes. Nienhuis says McKinney later crashed the vehicle on Mariner Blvd.
On January 31st, R News reported a shooting at Mariner Cay Apartments, where a 17-year-old was shot in the back by an 18-year-old acquaintance. It was later determined that the shooting was accidental and the shooter was not charged. The firearm was never recovered.
Through their investigation, Nienhuis says video onboard a Hernando County school bus showed McKinney passing a firearm around to his friends. Unique markings on the gun matched those that Nienhuis says appeared on the firearm used in the Mariner Cay shooting.
Due to the photographic evidence alone, McKinney was charged with Possessing or Discharging a Firearm at a School Sponsored Event or Property. McKinney is currently held at the Department of Juvenile Justice in Ocala on multiple charges, including those involving the stolen vehicle, pursuit, and battery on LEO. McKinney has also been expelled from Springstead High School.
Nienhuis says "They are going to know that law enforcement is no longer putting up with this, the gangs or the people who want to be in gangs using guns to settle their differences is not going to be tolerated."
Stratton stated, "If you're bringing a weapon onto any of our campuses or our properties, you will be expelled and you will face possible arrest in that process." Stratton appealed to parents to sit down and have a conversation with their children about guns and making threats.
Legal experts we spoke to say it is very unlikely that the gun charge filed against McKinney will "stick" without the actual firearm being entered into evidence. One attorney, who wished to remain anonymous stated, "This is showboating at its finest. A first-year defense attorney could have this case thrown out before it reaches trial. However, it does send a strong message to young people who think 'playing gangster' is somehow glamorous. It only leads to death and destruction."