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Snapchat photo of rifle-toting man leads to arrest

January 18, 2021 News Extra

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Ryan McConnell

State police Sunday arrested a Center Township man after he allegedly posted a photo of himself on social media holding a semi-automatic rifle and ammunition with an ominous message.

The caption at the bottom of the photo read, “Ready for school!”

The defendant, 24-year-old Ryan C. McConnell, however, told police the posting was just a “joke,” authorities said.

He is facing five criminal charges including a felony in the incident, and he is in the Butler County Prison on $50,000 bond.

The FBI on Sunday notified police of the photo on the photo-sharing app Snapchat, according to investigators. The photo, police said, showed McConnell holding an AR-15 rifle and a canister of ammunition.

The caption along with the photo did not list a specific school or school district.

Cpl. Mike Lewis said police went to McConnell's home where he was taken into custody. At the home, he said, police also seized the suspected rifle in the photo as well as a pistol, ammunition and two cell phones.

“The defendant related upon his arrest,” Lewis said in the criminal complaint, “that the photo was meant to be a joke, and he had no intention of following (through) with taking a rifle to a school.”

District Judge Sue Haggerty later that night arraigned McConnell on a felony charge of aggravated assault by attempting to place a school or teachers and students in fear of imminent serious bodily harm.

He also was arraigned on misdemeanor charges of terroristic threats, reckless endangerment, harassment and disorderly conduct. His preliminary is tentatively set for Jan. 26.

It was not known if McConnell has an attorney. At his arraignment, he was given information about applying for a public defender.

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Jim Smith

Jim Smith

Grew up in upstate New York. Earned my Journalism degree in 1983 from the University of Texas at Austin. Worked for two newspapers in Fayette County (Pa.) before starting at the Butler Eagle in 1998.