A civic-minded teen spent 13 days in jail and is facing a felony charge because he accidentally had a pocketknife in his car.
The horrific ordeal for Jordan Wiser began last December, when Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus officials – after watching his YouTube videos – believed they had reason to search his car. They found an EMT knife inside his medic vest, two airsoft guns for a planned game after school, and a legally purchased stun gun he kept for personal protection.
Wiser, a senior at the Ohio vocational school, is a bit of an overachiever. He was in the midst of completing Firefighter 2 and EMT courses to jump start his dream of becoming a first responder in the Buckeye State, and he completed his law enforcement training course last year.
In addition to the law enforcement, firefighter, and EMT courses Wiser was engaged in, he had enrolled in the Future Soldiers program. He had also been awarded National Terror Defense certification via FEMA and Terror Recognition certification as an emergency vehicle operator.
“The principal said he had reason to believe I had weapons in my vehicle and needed to search it,” Wiser told The Huffington Post. “He made me empty out all my pockets, and the vice principal grabbed me and patted me down very forcibly. It was somewhat awkward. Then they took my car keys. I told them what was in my car and said, ‘Don’t be alarmed.’ My stun gun was locked in the glove box and the knife was in my EMT medical vest. I bought it at K-Mart and have it as part of my first responder kit for cutting seatbelts.”
Wiser was arrested and ultimately jailed for 13 days for illegal conveyance of a weapon onto school grounds – a Class 5 felony. Ashtabula County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Harold Specht told the media that the felony charge was filed in relation to the small pocketknife only.
Specht had this to say about the backlash his office has received due to Wiser’s arrest:
“There’s a load of people out here that just think we’re the devil because we’re allegedly ruining this young kid’s life,” Specht said. “There are all these school occurrences where people are shot, people are killed by other students. We see it every day so we don’t take these things lightly. We have to be sure that we don’t have a potential for something like that to happen here.”
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A petition on Change.org was started in order to urge authorities to drop Wiser’s charges to a misdemeanor, and is rapidly garnering signatures. The page has now been removed at the young man’s request. The Ohio county court reportedly threatened sanctions against the teen and his attorney if the petition remained because the prosecutor was angry at his email inbox being flooded with messages in support of the teen, who dreams of serving both his community and his country.
“I won’t even be able to be a janitor,” he said of his charges. “I’m 18 years old, and this is going to ruin my entire life. The one judge I went in front of told me to remove any firearms from my parents’ house and put them at my grandpa’s house. The next judge freaked out about me even knowing what a gun is and put a no-contact order against me and my grandparents. My grandfather is dying right now, and I am not allowed within 500 feet of him.”