Two Florida middle school students, aged 14 and 13, are arrested after ‘plotting to carry out mass shooting after studying 1999 Columbine High School massacre’
- Eighth-graders Phillip Bird, 14 and Connor Pruitt, 13, were arrested on Thursday
- They both attended Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres, Fort Myers
- The two teens are facing charges of conspiracy to commit a mass shooting
- Sherrif said pair were ‘extensively studying’ Columbine High School shooting
Two Florida middle school students have been arrested after ‘plotting to carry out mass shooting after studying 1999 Columbine High School massacre’.
The two boys, Phillip Bird, 14 and Connor Pruitt, 13, who are eighth-grade students at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres, near Fort Myers, were arrested on Thursday facing charges of conspiracy to commit a mass shooting.
The alleged shooting plot was discovered after a student tipped off an eight-grade teacher on Wednesday, claiming that one of their classmates had a gun in their book bag.
Eighth-graders Phillip Bird, 14 and Connor Pruitt, 13, were arrested on Thursday facing charges of conspiracy to commit a mass shooting at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres, Florida (pictured)
The school resource officer and administration were alerted to the potential threat which led to an investigation from deputies.
They did not find a weapon in the student’s book bag but did find a map of the school with markings on it showing each of the school’s security cameras.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said police also discovered other ‘disturbing evidence’ following a search at the suspects’ homes including a gun and several knives.
In a news conference, Sheriff Marceno said: ‘Detectives learned the students took an interest in the Columbine High School shooting.
‘They were extensively studying to learn more about the incident and the shooters.
‘Detectives also learned the students were attempting to learn how to construct pipe bombs and how to purchase firearms on the black market.’
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno (pictured) said the students took an interest in the Columbine High School shooting and were ‘extensively studying’ the incident
The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting and attempted bombing that occurred on April 20, 1999, in Columbine, Colorado.
The two shooters, twelfth-grade students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, aged 18 and 17, murdered 12 students and one teacher and then subsequently committed suicide.
It was the deadliest mass shooting at a US high school until 2018 when 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – which is located approximately 120 miles away from Lehigh Acres.
A tip-off from a fellow student led to a discovery of map of the school with markings on it showing the school’s security cameras and other ‘disturbing evidence’ including a gun and several knives found at the suspects’ homes. Pictured: Deputies searching one of the homes
Sherrif Marceno said that he is certain that police intervention prevented another deadly school shooting from taking place, saying: ‘This could have turned disastrous. We were one second away from a Columbine here.’
He continued: ‘I’m certain that my team of dedicated deputies and detectives acted promptly, investigated thoroughly and prevented a very violent and dangerous act from being carried out.
‘This could have been the next Parkland massacre, but we stopped them in the planning stages.’
The two middle school students, who the sherrif said were both ‘well known’ to police as deputies had responded to calls to their homes nearly 80 times combined, will be charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting.
The pair will be evaluated at a mental health facility and Sherrif Marceno said legal investigators will be looking into a risk protection order, which restricts access to firearm for those who pose a danger to themselves or others.
Sherrif Marceno said that he is certain that police intervention prevented another deadly school shooting from taking place. Pictured: Weapons investigators allegedly found at the student’s homes
At the news conference on Thurday, Superintendent Dr. Ken Savage thanked Sherrif Marceno and his team 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.
‘Together they emptied the classroom and investigated. Students were safe at all times.’
He continued: ‘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.’