Two Florida students, 13 and 14, accused of planning Columbine-style school shooting
'This could have been the next Parkland massacre, but we stopped them in the planning stages. We were one second away from another Columbine'
Two teenagers accused of plotting a school shooting in the vein of “another Columbine” appeared in front of a Lee County, Florida, judge on Sunday, September 18, morning.
The two teenagers were detained on Thursday, September 9, after a school official at Harns Marsh Middle School received a tip that one of the boys was carrying a gun in his backpack. They were taken into custody on Saturday, September 11. In a live-streamed press conference, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno identified the students as Connor Pruett, 13, and Phillip Byrd, 14. “This could have been the next Parkland massacre, but we stopped them in the planning stages,” Sheriff Marceno said. “We were one second away from another Columbine.” The sheriff said the teens had been researching details of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado that killed 12 and tips on how to make a pipe bomb. The 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla, left 17 people dead and 17 others wounded.
Even though authorities did not find a gun, they said they did uncover a map of the school showing where its security cameras were placed. During the course of the investigation, detectives also stated that they discovered Pruett and Byrd were “extensively studying” the 1999 Columbine High School shooting and trying to figure out how to purchase firearms on the black market.
But one of their mothers said authorities are overreacting and claimed her son is innocent. “He’s just a little boy,” Byrd’s mom, Carrie Tuller, told WINK. “He didn’t think this was really serious. He didn’t think they were serious.” The boys were detained on Thursday for a mental health evaluation.
The alleged shooting plot was discovered after students tipped off an eighth-grade teacher on Wednesday, September 8claiming that one of their classmates had a gun in their book bag. The school resource officer and administration were alerted to the potential threat which led to an investigation from deputies.
Both teenagers are charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting and are due back in court on September 27. Marceno stated that last week that cops didn’t find a gun but one of the teens had a map of the school with the location of all the security cameras in the building marked. He said the teen suspects were “well-known” to the sheriff’s office after multiple calls for disturbances at their homes.