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Elections

Kansas House candidate faced charges at age 14 for threatening shooting at a school

Aaron Coleman, a 20-year-old candidate for a Kansas House seat in Wyandotte County, was arrested and charged in 2015 with threatening to shoot a student at a Turner School District school.

Police and court records show that Coleman, 14 at the time, was charged with making a criminal threat, a felony charge, in May 2015. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of harassment.

A Kansas City, Kansas, police officer stationed at Turner High School learned of a text message that Coleman sent saying “Imma go up to the THS and shoot her then myself,” with THS believed to be a reference to Turner High School.

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The messages went on to say, “My life is ruined and I just want to die” and “Imma get my uncles 9mm and go up their (sic) and shoot her then afterwards shoot myself in the head so the cops cant arrest me,” according to a police report and arrest warrant affidavit obtained by The Star through a Kansas Open Records Act request.

KCKPD officers spoke to a woman whose daughter was believed to be the target of Coleman’s threats, who noted that her daughter feared for her safety. Police went to Coleman’s house afterwards to arrest him and seize his computer and phone. Coleman told police he had no intention of harming the girl and had no access to a gun.

Coleman was not a student in the Turner School District at the time; a police report indicated that he was in home school. Douglas Powers, assistant superintendent of business and public relations for the district, said Coleman left the district in May 2012.

Turner High School was not placed on lockdown after KCKPD officers learned of the threat, but did put additional security guards at each entry to the school.

“We do take threats seriously,” Powers said in an email. “If that were to happen today, we would initiate our Standard Response Protocol that could result in the building being placed on lockdown.”

Coleman’s arrest and charges are the latest revelation of troubling behavior by the Democratic candidate for the Kansas House District 37 seat, which is currently held by Rep. Stan Frownfelter, a Kansas City Democrat.

Coleman narrowly won the August Democratic primary over Frownfelter, who has served in the Kansas House since 2007. Frownfelter, a centrist Democrat, is pursuing a write-in campaign against Coleman, saying voters did not learn in time the details of Coleman’s past. Kristina Smith, a Republican, also launched a write-in campaign in the district where Democrats have a sizable advantage.

Details about Coleman’s past include accusations that when he was 12, he obtained a nude image of a teenage girl and threatened to distribute it to others if she did not send him additional nude photographs.

In a separate incident, another girl claimed Coleman bullied and shamed her to the point that she attempted suicide.

Coleman earlier this year acknowledged those incidents, saying he denounced his behavior and said they were the “actions of a sick and troubled 14-yo boy.”

An ex-girlfriend of Coleman’s, in an interview with The Star, said he was abusive toward her during their brief relationship at the end of 2019 when Coleman was 19 years old. She alleged that Coleman slapped and choked her when the two got into an argument at a Kansas City Airbnb where the couple was staying just after the Christmas holiday.

Coleman has acknowledged being abusive toward his ex-girlfriend but disputed some of her characterizations and denied choking her.

The Star contacted Coleman through email and phone messages seeking comment and context about the shooting threat.

“I find it insane to use someone’s juvenile record to distract from the fact Republicans and Democrats are engaging in full on class warfare right here in Wyandotte County and keeping people trapped in poverty in order to maximize profits,” Coleman responded in a text message.

The Star asked Coleman if he could contextualize the allegations against him from the police report, or otherwise discuss whether it was a serious or idle threat. Coleman declined to comment further.

The Star discovered the arrest and charges during a search of Kansas court records and requested supporting documents.

According to the police report, Coleman acknowledged writing the message and said that it was true that he wanted to hurt himself but said he never intended to harm or shoot the girl and did not have access to firearms.

Coleman made the threat after the girl posted to Facebook a photograph he sent her of his penis. Coleman told police, according to the report, that he sent her the photo to be funny and prove her wrong after she insulted him and claimed he had a small penis.

Coleman said he went into a “panic attack” after the photo was posted on Facebook and asked that she take it down, which she refused.

“Coleman stated that during his panic he made threats about killing (the name of the subject is redacted in the police report) in attempts to convince her to remove the photo,” the police report said. “He stated that he didn’t want to scare her, but to make her believe he was ‘crazy.’”

Attempts to reach the girl and her mother were unsuccessful. According to the police report, the girl told police that she took a screen shot of the photograph Coleman sent her and posted it on Facebook after being prompted by her boyfriend to blackmail Coleman.

Kansas Democrats have largely disavowed Coleman following prior reports about his behavior, both as a teenager and as an adult.

Just prior to the August primary, Coleman was criticized for making comments on social media that said he would get a laugh if a former Kansas Republican lawmaker contracted COVID-19 and died.

Coleman has apologized for much of the allegations about his behavior as a teenager. He announced after his election in the primary that he was dropping out of the race, but then got back in.

Coleman is running on a progressive platform of sustainable energy, Medicare for all, abortion rights and cannabis legalization, among other priorities.

He’s criticized Frownfelter for voting with Republicans on various measures, including ones to restrict abortion rights.

“If my opponent should be forgiven for his crimes against humanity which he hasn’t apologized for, (voting to: criminalize abortions, gut the EPA, prevent healthcare insurance of abortions, support the KXL pipeline),” Coleman’s campaign Facebook page says in a post from Wednesday, “Should I be forgiven for my sins that I have apologized for?”

This story was updated after initial online publication to add information and to correct Coleman’s age when he threatened to blackmail a teenager whose nude photographs he had obtained. Coleman said he was 12 when that incident occurred.

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