A 10-year-old boy who was arrested and accused of threatening a mass shooting at his elementary school speaks out to WINK News in an exclusive interview.
After his arrest, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno decided to record and release a perp walk of the child which piqued the interest of national and international news organizations.
When you visit the Marquez family, you’ll likely end up at the kitchen table.
They love games. Silly ones, like staring contests.
And the more challenging ones, Like the Rubix Cube races — both boys can solve these puzzles in a matter of minutes.
In these moments, the competition is real, but so is the laughter. And in the end, no one’s keeping score.
And yet in the bigger picture, the odds are currently stacked against 10-year-old Daniel Marquez.
He’s already been judged for a crime Marceno claims he committed.
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Texting a threat of a mass shooting at Patriot Elementary School in Cape Coral on May 27; days after the Uvalde school shooting.
Celine: “Do you think you did anything wrong?”
But sheriff deputies thought otherwise.
According to reports, Daniel texted someone pictures he got off Google of cash and four AR-15 rifles.
Detectives said one text read, “Scammed a friend.”
Another read, “I bought this.”
A third text read, “Get ready for Water Day” with a funny emoji.
The report also doesn’t include any other details that led them to determine there was probable cause for an arrest.
“I went in one of the cop cars and they took me to the juvie place,” Daniel said.
Celine: “Did you ask them why they were taking you away?”
Daniel: “I didn’t ask. I didn’t really know what was going on.”
Leticia Kim is the director of legal affairs for the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, and the group is helping the family.
“We need to take any kind of real threat seriously, uh, but not at the expense of engaging in a moral panic, where a 10-year-old child is suffering the consequences,” Kim said.
Three hours after Daniel was arrested and about 12 hours before his first court appearance, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office posted Daniel’s perp walk on its Facebook page.
The video had a caption from Marceno that said “This student’s behavior is sickening.”
But nearly a month after his arrest, the state attorney hasn’t charged Daniel with anything.
A judge did order him to serve 21 days in juvenile detention. Kim explains why minors aren’t granted bail.
“The Florida juvenile justice system operates on a point basis, and anything that is above I believe, 12 points, resulting in automatic detention. And this is prior to any charges being filed whatsoever. And so in a sense, a juvenile in Florida has fewer rights than an adult who is eligible to be released on bail,” Kim said.
“I slept there in a cell. On a mattress with blankets and a towel. I just used the towel as a pillow,” Daniel said.
WINK News will not learn more about Daniel’s confinement or his case, because that information and court documents are protected since he’s a minor.
But Marceno chose to release selected details of this case and reveal Daniel’s identity despite him being just 10 years old.
That means the world has only heard the sheriff’s version of events, and he admitted on national television that he never spoke to Daniel.
Along with Caryn Depasquale, a mental health expert who specializes in childhood trauma, by my side, I asked Daniel about the texts.
“I said ‘I scammed my friend Jacob for a bazillion dollars,’ and then ‘I said that I bought these,’ and I sent a picture of big guns and then I was about to go to sleep, and a few minutes or seconds or something I decided to say, get ready for Water Day because on Tuesday was Water Day.”
Water Day is an end-of-the-year school event.
Daniel got a response to his texts the next day, but not what he expected.
“I checked if my friend saw the text messages. He did, but it was his dad. His dad said that he would call the police and the school and my parents. And then I told my dad and then a few minutes go by and the police show up on our door,” Daniel said.
WINK News asked Daniel why he sent that to his friend?
“Because, like, rifles are expensive. And, like, I said ‘a bazillion dollars,’ like a lot of money. Rifles, they cost a lot of money. So that’s like what I was thinking,” Daniel said.
Daniel’s 11-year-old brother Johnathan thought once detectives heard Daniel’s explanation and met their family, they would see he was not a threat.
“He never got in trouble in school, he never got in trouble with the law, besides this which I think is outrageous in my opinion,” said Johnathan
Johnathan said Daniel’s sense of humor is not that great.
“He made a lot of jokes that were not that funny. But I feel like this is one of his not really funny jokes taken way out of proportion,” Johnathan said.
Johnathan said he feels like anyone, with at least half of a brain, would see he never mentioned the school, he never mentioned a mass shooting.
And Marceno isn’t just anyone.
Johnathan shared his thoughts with WINK News, after watching Lee County’s top cop on social media.
“What he saw he thought, this is a perfect opportunity. Because of what happened in Uvalde, Texas and so he took the wave but I don’t think he knew Daniel’s background,” Johnathan said.
Daniel was released from the juvenile detention center to home confinement halfway through the 21-day stay because he got the flu while at the center.
But that week and a half behind bars still had an impact.
Dereck Marquez, Daniel’s father said, “he keeps saying I miss you and I say, but I am right here. He said, no, I am not saying that I miss you now, I missed you when I was locked up. And I told him it’s okay, you don’t have to worry. You’re home.”
“Whether he did something wrong or not, it’s still a traumatic experience. And, and for him, I think that traumatic experience is actually what happened to him afterward, especially a child that expresses remorse, who thinks that they’re just doing a child thing that maybe did go a step too far. They need to understand that they’re not a horrible person,” Depasquale said.
WINK News sat down with Marceno to ask about the arrest.
Marceno: “What’s really wrong is that you don’t look into it. And there’s a mass shooting. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about that.”
Celine: “No, no, no, disagreement about that. And I don’t even think the family had disagreed with that, because I think everything needs to be investigated. It’s just wondering if maybe he was condemned. Now because of this (social media), and he doesn’t get to go through the due process, and that he isn’t innocent until proven guilty.”
Marceno: “Well, the court system’s gonna kick in, the process will kick in.”
Marceno: “We determined there were firearms in the house. And for the most, the most important thing is when those firearms are in the house. Okay, that person has the ability to access them.
Celine: “What if they’re locked away?”
Marceno: “Well, what if there’s a key standing, you know, in the drawer where he knows how to access those guns?”
Celine: “Why broadcast this all over the world while you’re still trying to figure out what’s going on?”
Marceno: “I’m not the one broadcasting the news media comes to me because I’m the sheriff.”
Marceno: “The father is the one talking to everybody. And anyone that will listen to him.”
Celine: “No, but you posted three hours after he was arrested at 7:31 that evening.”
Celine: “And that evening, you posted his perp walk”
Marceno: “Well, that was the conclusion of the investigation. So he’s arrested, he’s in our custody. He’s arrested for writing threats to commit a mass shooting,”
Celine: “But he hasn’t been charged and he’s at home now.”
Marceno: “He is charged, he went to DJJ. It’s going to, it’s going to the distance.”
For clarity, the State Attorney’s Office has not formally charged Daniel with a crime.
They tell us they’re still reviewing the case.
Daniel’s father says the sheriff was right when he said he’s talking to anyone who will listen because he’s fighting for his son’s future.
“I would like the sheriff to formally apologize publicly saying that he was wrong, that my son is nothing that he claimed he was. I wouldn’t even be against him publicly resigning and saying that he made a mistake. And as a public official this is not acceptable for anyone to do,” Marquez said.
The father is angry but not about the investigation. He agrees with “See Something, Say Something.” What he doesn’t agree with is how he says Marceno has paraded his son around on social media, creating his own narrative of events.
That includes a post on TikTok. Daniel’s mug shot is edited over a clip of Marceno’s Fox News interview. And it’s put to music, what sounds like “Shoot to Thrill” by ACDC.
As for the guns in the home, the father says they’re locked up and deputies chose not to go inside to see them.
Daniel’s next hearing is in July and WINK News will be there.