APEX, N.C. — As Jarrett Brown remains in the Wake County jail on $100,000 secured bond, a debate has begun: Is he a threat to society or just a curious teenager?
Earlier this month, police found six pipe bombs in Brown's car during a traffic stop. They found several other devices at the teenager's home. He was arrested and charged with possessing weapons of mass destruction.
Friday, some of Brown's classmates at Apex High School wore T-shirts in his support. That did not sit well with administrators and other students.
The movement has been building for the last week. Every day, more and more students are wearing the shirts. The students want to send a message, while the school is trying to avoid distraction.
The T-shirts bear the words "We Support Jarrett" and a picture of Brown's face. On the back of the shirts are the words: "They Were Just Fireworks."
None of the investigators would comment on how dangerous the pipe bombs actually were. Brown's friends do not think the 17-year-old rising senior meant any harm.
"He was a nice person," said Alissa Abbey. "He was a nice person. He seemed genuine."
Said Aileen Coyle: "Maybe by showing people that we support him, people will realize that he wouldn't do anything bad."
Another Brown supporter, Adrianne Cole, acknowledged that possession of pipe bombs can appear to be a serious offense. But she was willing to give Brown the benefit of the doubt.
"Jarrett had an extreme interest in chemistry," Cole said, "and I think he wanted to see if he could actually do it."
Students are selling the shirts to help Jarrett's parents raise money for bail. Not all students are buying into the cause.
"I don't really think they should wear them in school because they don't know what he was doing with them," student Bradley McLeod said.
The school, meanwhile, is asking students to take the shirts off or wear them inside out because it does not want the disruption.
"We had some calls to the office," assistant principal Bob Smith said. "Teachers were concerned. Students were concerned. And, as more and more started wearing them, we got more and more calls."