After allegedly preparing a mass shooting similar to the 1999 Columbine massacre, two Florida middle school students were ordered to be held at a juvenile detention center for at least 21 days.
Conner Pruitt, 13, and Phillip Byrd, 14, who are eighth-grade students at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres, near Fort Myers, are each facing charges after a student informed a teacher that one of the teens had a gun in his backpack, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said.
They did not locate a weapon in the student’s book bag. However, they discovered a school map that showed all of the security cameras in the building, Daily Mail reported.
After alerting Lee County police, detectives discovered the boys were studying the Columbine shooting in detail, attempting to learn how to build a pipe bomb, and researching how to obtain guns on the black market.
After searching the suspects’ houses, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno claimed officers discovered further ‘disturbing evidence,’ including guns, ammunition, and multiple knives.
One of their mothers, however, believes the authorities are overreacting and that 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.”
Sheriff Marceno stated that he is sure that police intervention avoided a second tragic school shooting.
“This could have been the next Parkland massacre, but we stopped them in the planning stages,” Carmine Marceno said. “We were one second away from another Columbine.”
At the news conference on Thursday, Superintendent Dr. Ken Savage complimented Sherriff Marceno and his colleagues for their “quick response and actions to protect our students and staff.”
“As soon as students reported the potential threat, the teacher notified administrators, who immediately brought in the school resource officer,” he said.
He added: “I commend the students who came forward to report the potential threat and the quick action by our staff and SROs to prevent harm to our campus.”
The Columbine High School tragedy happened on April 20, 1999, in Columbine, Colorado, and involved a school shooting and an attempted bombing.
Eric Harris, a twelfth-grade student, and Dylan Klebold, a seventeen-year-old, massacred 12 students and one teacher before committing suicide.