Town Heals and Remembers

Man Screamed at Fort Lauderdale Children Who Were in "Heightened State of Fear" After Newtown Shooting: Judge

Broward Circuit Judge John Hurley revoked David Burch's bond

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    After a public defender argued that the arrest of David Burch was not lawful, Broward Circuit Judge John Hurley explained why he found probable cause. He said the Fort Lauderdale children affected by Burch's screaming Wednesday were in "a heightened state of fear" following the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.

    A Broward judge ordered David Burch held without bond Thursday, saying he believed the 28-year-old man “intentionally terrorized” children at a Fort Lauderdale elementary school when he screamed and waved his arms at them.

    Broward Circuit Court Judge John Hurley said he viewed Burch’s actions Wednesday near Bayview Elementary School against the backdrop of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting last week.

    Twenty-two children ages 7 and 8 were playing kickball on the field just south of the school when Burch, who was wearing camouflage pants, “started screaming and jumping up and down,” Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Rick Rhodes said in court. “The physical education teacher had all the kids run back into the school for their safety.”

    Hurley, reading from a police report, said the kids were playing when Burch approached the fence and began “screaming in a very aggressive manner. One of the teachers observed Burch create a high level of fear in the 22 children.”

    Burch was later found by Rhodes in a wooded area near the school, Hurley added.

    The judge noted that “the children and the teacher and the employee there, they were all in a heightened state of fear. And the backdrop to this is obviously what had just happened in Connecticut, where all those children were killed.

    “So these children were in a unique position of emotional vulnerability, which never really probably ended until people knew that this man was apprehended,” Hurley said.

    Rhodes said that Burch behaved uncooperatively, and denied his behavior in front of the children.

    Referring to the gym teacher, the police officer reported, “She said he was kind of like a dancing bear but scared the heck out of the kids and her, and when she called the children back to the school, to all run back to the school, he started to run towards the opening in the fence.”

    She kept herself between the children and Burch, who did not end up crossing the threshold of the fence, Rhodes said.

    Burch was arrested for disorderly conduct, Hurley said.

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    A public defender argued that Burch should not have been arrested because police were not present for every element of the alleged disorderly conduct, and because police did not arrest him while in “fresh pursuit.”

    But Hurley found probable cause based on several factors, saying that the Burch’s disorderly conduct did not cease until he was arrested.

    A prosecutor said that Burch was previously arrested Dec. 3 when he was found sleeping on the beach and charged with carrying a concealed ax handle and resisting an officer without violence. He had bonded out of jail when the latest incident occurred.

    Burch was also twice convicted of trespassing in North Carolina earlier this year, the prosecutor said.

    Hurley said that Burch “intentionally terrorized the children of Bayview Elementary,” against the backdrop of Newtown.

    He set his bond at $25,000, ordered Burch not to return to the elementary school or the adjacent park, and ordered him not to go within 50 feet of any school within the county.

    But Hurley then revoked Burch’s bond for the December case, meaning he will stay in jail.

    The public defender objected both to Burch’s arrest and to the amount of his bond.

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