There are a lot of reasons Kiera Wilmot's story has exploded online this week. First, there's the sheer weirdness of a 16-year-old getting in huge trouble for a science experiment gone wrong. Then there's the racial aspect: A black girl -- exactly the type of kid underrepresented in the scientific studies -- getting heavily punished for her curiosity. But craziest of all, most of the web seems to agree, are the legal charges she's facing: two felonies for, in essence, a project that didn't hurt anyone.
The potential charges are even more galling considering that same prosecutor who gave police the OK to arrest Wilmot elected not to charge a 13-year-old just three weeks earlier for fatally shooting his younger brother.
A police report obtained by Riptide earlier this week shows that after Wilmot's assistant principal caught her after mixing toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a plastic bottle -- in what Wilmot called a "science fair experiment" -- he called the police to school.
An officer, after hearing the facts, in turn called Polk County Assistant State Attorney Tammy Glotfelty. "I advised ASA Glotfelty of the circumstances of the case, and she advised the officer to file the charges of possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at school... and making, possessing, throwing, projecting, placing, or discharging any destructive device."
What's not clear is whether prosecutors will follow through with the charges. Wilmot is a minor, so the charges don't show up in an online records search.
Riptide contacted the Polk County State Attorney's Office. A woman named Donna, who declined to give her last name, said, "Our only comment is we're still investigating and can't say anything about it."
As several online commenters have noted, the situation is in stark contrast to Glofelty's handling of another emotionally charged case this year.
A 13-year-old from Bartow named Taylor Richardson shot and killed his 10-year-old brother, Skylar, with a BB gun March 13. A month later, Glotfelty elected not to press criminal charges. Here's what she told the Lakeland Ledger:
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"Our office has considered this case, keeping in mind that (Taylor) is 13 years of age and is a student at Roosevelt Academy... After a thorough review of the facts, available to our office at this time, it is our opinion that this case can only be seen as a tragic accident."
Probably a wise choice. Now, will Glotfelty reach the same conclusion about Wilmot?
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