(USA TODAY) - A Texas teen faces up to eight years in prison after making a comment on Facebook about shooting up a kindergarten.
Justin Carter, 19, says it was all a joke. According to the indictment, Carter allegedly threatened in the Facebook post "to shoot up a kindergarten, watch the blood rain down and eat the beating heart out of one of them."
Deputies in Comal County, Texas, didn't take it as a joke and charged Carter with making "terroristic threats" - a third-degree felony - the San Antonio Express-News reported. He has been jailed since March 27, unable to make his $500,000 bail.
"What I said was terrible, mean and downright stupid," Carter, who was 18 when he wrote the post, told Judge Jack Robison in a jailhouse letter.
"The misunderstanding was that I wasn't trying to scare anyone, I was trying to be witty and sarcastic," Carter wrote. "I failed and I was arrested."
Justin's mother, Jennifer, told CNN she "honestly assumed that once the police spoke to him they would understand that this was just a joking comment that he made and that it wasn't serious."
In an online petition that has gained more than 40,000 supporters for Justin's freedom, Jennifer wrote:
"Justin's a good kid. He wouldn't hurt anyone, let alone a child. What happened is that he was in an argument on the League of Legends website, which continued on a Facebook page, and someone on Facebook called him crazy and messed up in the head.
So he responded in a sarcastic tone by saying something along the lines of 'Oh yeah, I'm real messed up in the head, I'm going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts' which was followed by saying JK (just kidding) and LOL (laughing out loud). His response may have been in bad taste, but it was written in a non-threatening way that didn't translate well online."
But deadly school shootings nationwide, particularly last December's Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre, factored into the decision to charge Carter, New Braunfels Police Lt. John Wells told the Express-News.
"We take any threats of that nature seriously," Wells said. "We don't know if they're going to carry it out or not. It's the job of the courts to decide whether to indict and to determine someone's guilt or innocence. Our job is to obtain the evidence and submit a complaint."