Students who overheard a classmate boasting about a mass shooting plot alerted teachers at their central Florida charter school, and police credited them with helping avert a possible massacre.
A 13-year-old student, who told police he was inspired by the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, had warned certain students at The Villages Charter Middle School in Lady Lake to either stay home Friday or wear white shirts and say the safety word “Eugene” to avoid getting shot, investigators told WFTV.
Students who said they overheard the teen believed he “was serious and they were bothered by his statements,” said a Sumter County charging affidavit. “They did not believe he was joking.”
After authorities were alerted earlier this week, the 13-year-old was stopped on his way to school Wednesday and questioned. He implicated a 14-year-old student, who was detained at the school the same day, according to a statement from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.
The teens had no weapons on them or in their lockers, law enforcement officers said, but firearms were found in the homes of both boys during a search the following day. One of the guns was an AR-15 assault rifle, according to police. Both teens were charged Thursday with conspiracy to commit murder. They’re being held in a juvenile detention facility. Police have not yet identified them, though they have been named by the media in central Florida.
Under questioning, the suspects tearfully confessed to the plot, according to police. Investigators said the younger teen told them he had been depressed and said, “I just want to die,” NBC reported.