By Dave Altimari, Hartford Courant
An East Haven woman who bragged in text messages that she was planning a mass shooting at Gateway Community College in New Haven will spend the next three years in a New Haven mental health treatment center.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shea ruled Monday that the nearly 11 months that Amanda Bowden has spent in a federal prison since her arrest last February was enough under the sentencing guidelines and that getting her treatment for her mental health issues is the biggest priority for her and the community.
“In the world that we now live in law enforcement has to take these threats seriously because sometimes they aren’t just threats creating frightening, dangerous and costly situations,” Shea said.
Shea said Bowden, 21, will be transferred to the Connecticut Mental Health Center in New Haven for treatment as recommended by two doctors from the Yale School of Medicine who interviewed Bowden and filed a report with the court.
Shea imposed several conditions, including constant monitoring of any computer device she may possess. She must also avoid contact with any faculty or students from Gateway Community College and allow the probation department to search her home without notice.
“There is difficult work that lies ahead of you so that you don’t repeat the thought patterns that occurred here,” Shea told Bowden. “If this time the results of your treatment are not different and if you again pose a threat to public safety, I will incarcerate you to protect other people – mental illness or no mental illness.”
Bowden was arrested after an undercover FBI agent exchanged text messages and phone calls with her in which she detailed plans to detonate napalm bombs and then shoot students and faculty at the community college.
In her messages, Bowden referenced Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza several times saying she was going to wear a bullet proof vest like he did and destroy her phone and computer hard drive to prevent authorities from obtaining information from them.
When federal agents searched her East Haven home they did not find any weapons, but found she had conducted more than 30 searches on her computer for information on the Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings and had also been searching for information on whether Gateway had metal detectors.
Bowden was charged with falsely threatening a shooting and bombing attack on the school and faced a maximum of a five-year prison sentence. She has been incarcerated since her arrest.
Federal agents started investigating Bowden after a confidential informant contacted them and told them they had been in contact with her about helping her carry out a mass shooting. An undercover FBI agent assumed the informant’s identity and continued the anonymous text messaging with Bowden.
The messages and the threat got more disturbing, court records show. On Feb. 16, 2013 Bowden wrote “I have dreams about shooting up my school…yea your with me it’s amazing like there’s all news outside and cops and it feels so good killing people we are having the time of our lives doing it lol.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry K. Kopel included several examples of her text messages in his sentencing memorandum.
“We were fortunate that a civilian came forward after receiving some of these texts from (Bowden)” Kopel said. “We charged this as a hoax because the good news was there were no bombs or guns inm her house. But it sounded like this case was progressing towards the reality of a mass shooting.”
Public Defender Kelly Barrett, in her sentencing memo, acknowledges the seriousness of the threats and writes that Bowden suffers from bipolar disorder and depression. Barrett wrote that Bowden needs intensive psychiatric treatment and is asking the judge to insure that court-appointed psychiatric care be included in her sentence.