In an Instant, Message Has a Lasting Impact

By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

On his final day of winter break from Wake Forest University, Lucas Caparelli sat on the couch in his father's girlfriend's basement in Northern Virginia, surfing the Internet and messaging friends. The Chargers-Colts NFL playoff game offered background noise as Caparelli's fingers wandered the keyboard on the lazy yet fretful Sunday afternoon of Jan. 13.

Caparelli, a former All-Met kick returner from Robinson Secondary School, had found the adjustment to Wake Forest's football team much more seamless than to the esteemed North Carolina private school's social scene. He was not looking forward to returning to a place where, as a working-class public-school kid and marginal college student, he felt uncomfortable amid those he perceived as pedigreed climbers.

Using a Wake Forest-issued laptop, Caparelli banged out two sentences on his Facebook page, underneath his name and beside his picture, in the "What are you doing right now?" section.

Lucas Caparelli "recommends not going to class on Wednesday because he is going to blow up campus. For those left standing he will have an uzi locked and loaded in his bag."

Elsewhere on his page on the social networking Web site, at 3:04 p.m., under "Lucas Caparelli's Notes," he invited the school to perform a certain lewd act on him, capitalizing "MY" in between the expletives, and wrote a short poem in a style he said he patterned after the rapper Eminem:

"tomorrow I return to the hell known as wake, scares me so much that in my boots I'm starting to shake, can't find no good, a place with no pleasure, getting stabbed in the face is about the fun you can measure, surrounded by arrogant, rich, spoiled little brats, didn't earn a [expletive] thing, everything was laid in their laps, these cocky bastards are spreading like a cancer, not infecting me though because maybe I'll transfer"

The Uzi "status" posting stayed up for about 90 minutes, until Caparelli heeded the instant-message pleas of Wake Forest teammate Joe Birdsong and former Robinson teammate Ali Sayed to remove the inflammatory statement for fear of it being taken seriously. Caparelli barely gave his removed musing another thought.

Others did. A concerned Wake Forest student already had alerted campus police.

When Caparelli flew to Winston-Salem, N.C., the next day, he soon learned that impulsive boasts of pending campus violence, even ones you have no intention of carrying out, can result in a five-hour ride back to Virginia in the back seat of an unmarked campus police cruiser.

A week later, at a campus judicial hearing, Caparelli was suspended from school for the spring semester. Forsyth County (N.C.) District Attorney Tom Keith plans to review the case to determine whether he will pursue charges.

"He's out of custody, he's out of state, so he's not an immediate threat," Keith said last month.

Now, Caparelli is a former division I football player who wonders if he ever can shed that stigma of violence, living in a state about to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting spree at Virginia Tech that killed 32 students and faculty members, perpetrated by another alienated kid from Fairfax County whose tortured writings foreshadowed his act.

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