Two students at a Florida middle school, ‘plotted Columbine-style mass shooting,’ police said
Investigators found that Phillip Byrd, 14 and Connor Pruett, 13 and had amassed guns, ammo and knives’: Crying mom tells judge ‘He’s just a little boy’
Byrd and Pruett, both eighth-grade students at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres, near Fort Myers, were detained on Thursday for a mental health evaluation and taken into custody on Saturday
They appeared in front of a judge on Sunday morning to face charges relating to attempting to carry out a mass shooting mirroring the 1999 Columbine school massacre
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 guns and several knives found at the suspects’ homes
Sherriff said pair were ‘extensively studying’ Columbine High School shooting
Byrd’s mother Carrie Tuller broke down in tears during the court hearing and said, “ He’s just a little boy”
“He didn’t think this was really serious. He didn’t think they were serious”
Byrd and Connor Pruett will be held for 21 days in a juvenile detention center for an alleged mass shooting plot
Their next court date is for Sept. 27
The teens are ‘well known’ to police as deputies had responded to calls to their homes nearly 80 times combined
Two boys at a Florida middle school,, aged 14 and 13, have been ordered to remain at a juvenile detention center after allegedly planning to carry out a mass shooting mirroring the 1999 Columbine school massacre.
Phillip Byrd, 14, and Connor Pruett, 13, both eighth-grade students at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres, near Fort Myers, appeared in front of a judge on Sunday morning.
The judge ordered the two to be held for at least 21 days in a juvenile detention center.
School administration took the potential threat seriously when they found Byrd and Pruett with a map of the school marked up to show each of its security cameras.
After alerting Lee County police, detectives discovered that the boys were thoroughly studying the Columbine shooting.
Further establishing the likely intent, investigators discovered he the duo were attempting to learn how to build a pipe bomb and researching how to buy guns on the black market.
Police also searched the boys’ homes and found guns, ammunition and several knives.
But Byrd’s mother Carrie Tuller broke down in tears as she defended her son in court on Sunday.
‘He’s just a little boy,’ she said. ‘He didn’t think this was really serious. He didn’t think they were serious.’ Teens accused of plotting ‘Columbine’ are held at juvenile center
Connor Pruett, 13,and Phillip Byrd, 14, who are facing charges of conspiracy to commit a mass shooting, were detained on Thursday for a mental health evaluation and taken into custody on Saturday.
They are being charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting.
Both were ordered to have no contact with school staff or students and required to stay off school grounds.
They will remain at a juvenile detention facility and their next court date is Sept. 27 at 9am, local news station WINK, reports.
Following the boys’ arrest, Lee County Superintendent Kenneth Savage tweeted: ‘To the heroes @HarnsMarshMS, THANK YOU!
‘Your actions saved lives and for that @LeeSchools are forever grateful. All honor to @SheriffLeeFL and staff-students that intervened.’
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said legal investigations will be looking into a risk protection order, which restricts access to firearm for those who pose a danger to themselves or others.
The alleged mass shooting plot was uncovered after students tipped off an eight-grade teacher on Wednesday, claiming 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 by Lee County sheriff’s deputies.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno gives statement following student in possession of gun. Sheriff Marceno said the students took an interest in the Columbine High School shooting and were ‘extensively studying’ the incident.
While the search didn’t lead to discovery of a weapon in the student’s book bag, investigators found a map of the school showing the location of all security cameras in the building.
Sheriff Marceno said police also discovered other ‘disturbing evidence’ following a search at the suspects’ homes including guns, ammunition 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.’
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, approximately 120 miles away.
Sheriff 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 sheriff said the two middle school students are ‘well known’ to police as deputies had responded to calls to their homes nearly 80 times combined.
At Sunday’s hearing the judge said he believed the two teens committed a juvenile act.
Phillip Byrd’s mother, Carrie Tuller, who was present in court, defended her son.
He’s just a little boy,” Tuller said. “He didn’t think this was really serious. He didn’t think they were serious.”
The sheriff said legal investigators will be looking into a risk protection order, which restricts access to firearms for those who pose a danger to themselves or others.
At the news conference on Thursday, Superintendent Dr. Ken Savage thanked Sherriff 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.’