COCOA BEACH, Florida – The Florida State Attorney dropped charges against a 40-year-old Texas man who was arrested for allegedly threatening an “active shooter style” event in his review of a hotel in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
A Notice of No Information was filed in the case of Joseph Lee McKinney who was arrested by Cocoa Beach Police on August 24, 2019, for Written Threats to Kill or do Bodily Injury.
While at sea, McKinney responded electronically to a survey sent by the hotel stating his displeasure with the staff.
“Serve decent food. Don’t force people to eat at a bar for lunch. Try a little customer service,” McKinney wrote.
“Don’t invade rooms and threaten guest. Don’t send condescending emails to guest when they report the appalling conditions of the hotel. Try to be decent to other human beings because some of us are heavily armed and mentally ill and are on the verge of snapping and wouldn’t it be a shame if they stapled active shooter style in your hotel.”
McKinney was confronted by police upon his return to Port Canaveral and told them that he had sent the survey in response to the hotel’s treatment of his wife.
He told police it was dumb, he did not intend to commit a shooting at the hotel and may have been the result of failing to take his medication.
Prosecutors reviewed the case and found that while McKinney did send the electronic statements to the hotel, the language didn’t amount to a direct specific threat that he would kill or do harm to any employee of the hotel, as required by Florida Statute 836.10.
Instead, prosecutors found the statement to be indirect and hypothetical indicating “…wouldn’t it be a shame if they [snapped] active shooter style in your hotel.”
Without evidence of a direct threat, the State could not prove that a crime had actually been committed or Corpus Delicti.
This standard must be met before any evidence can be introduced against a defendant, including a confession.
“While McKinney’s actions in this instance are disturbing and justified a response by law enforcement, ultimately prosecutors are legally and ethically prohibited from pursuing criminal prosecution of any defendant when they reasonably believe the alleged crimes cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial,” the State Attorney’s office stated.
“This standard is much higher than the probable cause standard met by law enforcement when arresting a defendant.”