latest

Student Spends 83 Days in Jail, Faces Terrorism Charges, 20 Years in Prison for Posting Photo of AR-15 to Snapchat

By: Teresa Mull

Lucas Gerhard, 20, was studying criminal justice at Lake Superior State University in Michigan with the goal of becoming a law enforcement officer. On August 23, 2019, Lucas posted a photo of his lawfully purchased and registered AR-15 to a select group of snapchat friends, writing, “This oughta make the snowflakes melt, aye? And I mean snowflakes as in snow.”

Lucas was almost immediately arrested and charged with making a terrorist threat, which is a felony and could bring a sentence of 20 years in prison.

Offense

GPM spoke to Lucas’ father, retired Marine Colonel Mark Gerhard, about what happened.

Here’s what Col. Gerhard had to say in his own words:

Lucas is a very conservative young man, and he’s very vocal about it. He’s not one to shy away and back down from an argument. In today’s college environment, where seemingly a majority of the student body and a lot of the educators are trending liberal, Lucas found himself in a rolling dog fight up there his first two years. He’s had a lot of run-ins with various progressive activists up there. It’s a small school – there are only roughly 2,000 students. Lucas was going up there for Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement. He wants to be a cop, and they have a great program. He fought through a lot of roadblocks. There were moments he was getting harassed by anonymous people calling in and complaining about him in one fashion and another. He was visited by the public safety department more than a few times just because these people had called in and said they disagreed with him for whatever reason and he had to deal with that. His car was vandalized – the rear window smashed out. The school never really followed through with any kind of a serious investigation. That really was the beginning of a lot of the issues.

Lucas had a political dispute with (his accuser) about Columbus Day, which she demanded he refer to as “Indigenous People Day,” and this girl was very passionate that it should not be Columbus Day. Lucas eventually just blocked her off his Snapchat. Not only did Lucas find it necessary to block this one particular girl, but in time a few others, too, because they were so antagonistic, which is fine. It happens.

What caused all this was Lucas, over the summer, worked his tail off (at a restaurant), busing tables and hosting and dishwashing, and saved up a lot of money and told me he wanted to buy a rifle. I had taken him out to the range repeatedly and taught him to shoot, and he displayed a lot of safety, was very conscious about the weapon. So we went to a local gun shop, and he ordered a Colt AR-15A4, took it out a few times and absolutely loved it. He posted a Snapchat picture of his rifle leaning against his school stuff, basically saying, and I paraphrase, “I’m taking this rifle up to school, and it would most likely trigger perpetually reactionary, anti-gun snowflakes,” and he really meant nothing other than that.

He was having a laugh about imagining that reaction, but at the same time, was also joking about the snowy conditions up there. It’s icy up there practically nine months out of the year, so it was kind of a tongue-and-cheek chuckle about that, as well. And an important point to add is that during the entire time the Snapchat was posted, he was confident that this was going to be seen only by those peers in a select friends list.

So, he posted the picture, doesn’t think anything more about it. He had a friend say, “You might want to think twice about posting stuff like that; it’s going to get you on the FBI’s radar, because people will take offense and complain. I get it, I’m not a liberal, but you better be careful.” Lucas replied asking, “Why would anyone take this post as a threat?” but posted a disclaimer anyway stating that picture indeed “was not a threat,” and then he eventually deleted the original post.

Well, in between the time that he had sent the Snap, the girl that got it legitimately as part of the group of Snapchat friends really didn’t have any problem with it. She stated under oath in the preliminary exam she didn’t think it was a threat, didn’t think anything else of it. But her friend, who had been blocked, saw it, and took a picture with her own phone, and then reported it to the residential assistant (RA) supervisor.

The supervisor told them they better go to public safety, so they did. And public safety elevated it up to the Sault Ste. Marie police, who eventually came and searched Lucas’ room after he had arrived, checked in his rifle and ammo, got his campus building pass key, and moved into his dormitory room.

The curious thing about this – and I get it, I’m a retired Colonel of Marines, I’ve fought terrorists for pretty much half of my career, so I get the whole cautious approach to this by the school. I understand that. It’s not like I’m insanely over-reacting to that. Actually, what I’m saying is, aside from this being in no way, shape or form terrorism by any stretch of the definition, the LSSU administration severely under-reacted, in reality, if they were that seriously concerned about this being a potential danger.

In my view, they should have taken an abundance of corrective measures prior to Lucas even getting up to the school. If it were me, sitting in the dean’s seat, I would have said, “Look, we have a potential threat coming up to the school,” have the State Police intercept him at the bridge and make sure things are copacetic. Barring that, have an active, alert presence on campus, or at least instruct the campus to shelter in place and let them know there’s a potential threat coming up to school – to go into lock-down, let the student population know about it. And when he got there, take him into custody then if you’re that concerned about it.

Well none of that happened. Not a single thing happened. They gave Lucas a room key and a key to pretty much open every building on campus and said, “OK, go about your business, good luck in class this semester” and then searched his room after that. And that’s when Lucas called me. At that time, immediately after the search that morning until the next day, free to walk around without issue. Seeing that none of the my previously mentioned routine, precautionary measures were initiated by LSSU decision-makers tells me that there actually wasn’t a larger public safety concern, in real time, while this played out.

Lake State’s a different atmosphere for schools nowadays. They allow weapons to be stored on campus. Students are allowed to check them in and out. There’s an armory within the public safety building. Lucas had no idea any of this was going on. He got up to school, and literally the first thing he did was check in his AR-15 and about 700 rounds of ammo that he planned on using throughout the semester, not at all uncommon at LSSU.

He checked that in, went to his room, and unloaded most of his gear. The police and an LSSU public safety representative came and knocked on his door a little while later. They told him he was under suspicion of making terroristic threats. When Lucas questioned how could melting snow possibly be interpreted as a terroristic threat, one of the police officers actually compared that to the Wizard of Oz, where the Wicked Witch gets melted, or in other words is killed, by Dorothy and her pals. Not kidding about that! It was the actual rationale that cop gave Lucas as the reasoning behind the charge. Unbelievable but true.

Lucas called me immediately. I decided to drive up to provide moral support, as he was obviously concerned and confused. He had been so very much looking forward to his third year, hoping the harassment would finally be behind him. I assured him, erroneously as it turns out, that there wasn’t anything to worry about. So, we strolled around campus, where “Lakerpalooza”, a carnival-like, campus-wide event for incoming students was in full swing. Went out to eat, a nice casual and fun evening. However, the next morning, there’s a knock on the door, and two police officers take him into custody. I stood there in complete disbelief that the County Prosecutor had actually decided to pursue charges.

Lucas was taken to the Chippewa County Jail, where he was booked and held. I went and talked to the school, and I said, “I don’t know why the prosecutor is pushing this. Lucas is not a threat; I can tell you that very sincerely.” At that point, I didn’t think they were really going to pursue the charge as written, but either way, I knew Lucas would be in no mindset to attend classes that semester after all of which had just transpired. I made the decision to dis-enroll him from school. The arraignment was conducted about a week later, and first of all, the bond they wanted posted was $250,000. But along with a withering list of other provisions and restrictions, the Prosecutor demanded Lucas tethered within Chippewa County. The Judge concurred, which eliminated all hope of bonding Lucas out at that time for obvious reasons.

So, he sat in jail for 83 days. I had visitation once every Saturday. It’s a ten-hour round trip for me, but I’d go up and visit him every Saturday. It was pretty stressful for him. Lucas has a totally clean record. He’s never been in trouble ever, so for him to all-of-a-sudden find himself in a jail environment was obviously not the best circumstances for his mental well-being.

Part of my rationale for asking him to be transferred to my custody was, first of all, like I said, I’m a retired Colonel, so I would at least hope that was proof that I’m not a malcontent miscreant, who would allow him to flee, and I work for the federal government. I’ve got a TS-SCI clearance, and if I were to allow him to flee, not that he would, but that would revoke my security clearance in itself. Again, that just wasn’t taken into consideration, and I would go as far to say completely ignored by the District Judge.

Lucas is now under house arrest. A bond modification hearing was held on November 12, and his attorney, Mark Dobias, was successful in getting the Circuit Court Judge and County Prosecutor to agree to allow him to be remanded to my custody on a home confinement tether and bond reduction to $200,000. Here’s a curious thing – while I was in the courtroom, waiting for Lucas to arrive under escort for the bond modification hearing, there’s a kid, 20 or 21 years old, whose case came up. He was in there for attempted murder, attempted distribution of a controlled substance, and intimidation of a witness. And they set his bond at $10,000. That kind of got me thinking – there’s a kid up there for attempted murder and all this other stuff, and his bond is set at 10 grand, and Lucas’ was at that point still $250,000. I didn’t think it was fair, but that’s what it is.

I’m confident that we’re in the right on this. Everyone who knows Lucas, who is an Eagle Scout by the way, was completely blindsided by the ferocity of the charges. And frankly, I’m surprised how the prosecutors have used seemingly unlimited discretion to charge basically whatever they want, with absolutely no consequences to themselves. If this case is dismissed or Lucas is acquitted, the prosecutor risks basically nothing.

Lucas had been in jail for 83 days. He just got home on November 13. I had hired a very reputable local attorney, Mark Dobias, after the initial arraignment. Just recently, after a flood of individual referrals, I brought in a co-counsel who is well-known in the constitutional conservative arena, Nick Somberg. And the entire time, I’ve been working with my state representative, John Reilly, and Adam De Angeli, his chief of staff, who have been incredibly helpful in guiding me through this, and putting me in contact with various individuals and organizations who have helped immensely with their knowledge as we move forward.

The current status is we’re awaiting trial. Lucas' trial is set for March 18-20 at the 50th Circuit Court in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

There is a GoFundMe page set up to help with Lucas' legal expenses: https://www.gofundme.com/f/justice-for-lucas-g

Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at teresa@gunpowdermagazine.com.

You've successfully subscribed to Gunpowder Magazine
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Gunpowder Magazine
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.