- The Lee County Sheriff’s Office accused two Florida teens of plotting a school shooting.
- Another student told a teacher one of the teens had a gun in his bag, the sheriff’s office said.
- The sheriff’s office said the teens will be charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting.
Two Florida middle school students who were “obsessively studying” the 1999 Columbine High School massacre have been arrested and accused of plotting a school shooting, the local sheriff’s department said.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said at a press briefing on Thursday that two 14-year-olds at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres, Florida, will be charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting.
“This could have been the next Parkland massacre, but we stopped them in the planning stages,” the sheriff said. “We were one second away from another Columbine.”
Marceno said law enforcement launched an investigation into the 14-year-olds after another student told a teacher that one of the teens had a gun in his backpack.
While officials did not find a gun in the student’s backpack, they found a map of the school, and later found a gun and several knives in a search of their homes.
“They were extensively studying to learn more about the incident and the shooters,” Marceno said of the teens’ interest in Columbine, in which 12 students and one teacher were killed. “Detectives also learned the students were attempting to learn how to construct pipe bombs and how to purchase firearms on the black market.”
Both teens are being held and are being evaluated at a mental health facility.
Lee County Superintendent Ken Savage said at Thursday’s press conference that students at Harns Marsh Middle School were “safe at all times.”
“All the threat assessment and emergency response training made a difference in the outcome of this incident,” he said.