She worked as a school janitor at the Academy of Holy Names. While working there, 23-year-old Aniya Smalls was already on probation for a criminal mischief offense. On Tuesday, Smalls was arrested by Tampa police for threatening to shoot up the school according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Smalls was not directly hired by the school but rather worked through a contracted cleaning company to service the academy. On Monday, the cleaning company, Suncoast Construction and Maintenance, fired Smalls and had her escorted out of the facility at the request of the academy. While being escorted out of the private school, Smalls decided to threaten everyone claiming, “I’m coming back and I’m going to shoot this place and all you people up.”
In light of recent events, in particular the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., Smalls threat was met with swift and decisive action. Several witnesses including students in the lobby area heard the threat, and “students were in fear that she will return and harm them,” the arrest report says.
Administrators contacted police to advise them of the potential threat that Smalls posed and TPD launched a search for the disgruntled former employee.
Emily Wise, the school’s director of marketing and communications, said, “We were hoping they’d apprehend her that night.”
Police did not find her Monday night. By 8pm authorities recommended that the school operate on a modified lockdown status Tuesday in case she returned. The modified lockdown would allow for the students to still move freely throughout the building but they would not be able to go outside.
School president Art Raimo sent a letter to parents notifying them of the lockdown plans.
Smalls did not show up to the school Tuesday however. The school day was uneventful and police eventually caught up with Smalls at her apartment Tuesday afternoon. She was promptly arrested and charged with falsely threatening to use a firearm to commit violence, a second degree felony. It was later determined that Smalls was just blowing off steam after being sacked but her threats of violence were not credible. Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty said investigators concluded that the threat was not credible.
Despite the empty threat of violence spewed by Smalls, the timing of Smalls’ outburst couldn’t have been any worse. As calls to fortify and harden public schools spreads around the country, many districts and schools are reviewing their own policy and procedures in attempts to secure their faculty, staff, and students.
“Lately there have just been a lot of people who have said the wrong thing at the wrong time but we’re holding them accountable for that,” said TPD spokesperson Steve Hegarty.
In the case of Small, the academy reviewed the hiring practice that brought her onboard and realized after the fact Small was was already wanted for violating probation for an unrelated misdemeanor arrest.
In spite of being wanted by police, she was able to pass a Level 2 Background Check because she had no felony convictions on her record Raimo said in a second follow-up letter to parents. Raimo wrote that all contracted custodial employees will be subject to the more rigorous screening that faculty and staff must pass following the incident.
Wise, said the school has used Suncoast Construction and Maintenance for 20 years without a problem.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist said, “As a parent, it scared the heck out of me. I dropped my five – almost six-year-old daughter off at school and there were armed guards there… the Academy of Holy Names of all places.”
It was business as usual Wednesday but there was an increased number of guards on campus according to Wise.
Smalls is being held on no bond in the Hillsborough County Jail. She did not make her first appearance in a court hearing Wednesday when her name was called according to WFLA.