Teens charged in school shooting plot
Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson held a press conference Friday morning to announce the arrest of two Hawkins County teens on charges on a juvenile petition with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder petition and other charges related to their plans for a mass shooting at Volunteer High School in Church Hill.
Lawson said his office has been conducting an investigation since Oct. 25, 2013, when a counselor with Youth Villages Counseling Services reported they had discovered a journal kept by the boy containing information leading them to believe he was planning a mass shooting at the school.
When they spoke with the boy, they discovered he had, in fact, been planning and had devised a plan to carry out the shooting and decided to wait until his senior year to carry out the attack, a prepared press release reports.
“This wasn’t just a threat, it was a plan,” the sheriff said.
On Dec. 12, Hawkins County Sgt. Renee Rogers and other officers executed a search warrant the boy’s home. During the search, several guns belonging to the boy’s father, journals, firecrackers and what appeared to be gunpowder were discovered in a plastic bag. Floor plans of the school were found, as well as a handwritten plan to carry out the attack.
The sheriff said the boy was obsessed with the shooters in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, had studied their plan of attack, discovered their mistakes and a way not to repeat them. He was infatuated with serial killers.
On Dec. 18, one of the teen’s friends reported the boy “had approached them earlier in the 2013-2014 year, talking about wanting to come to school with bombs and guns and kill students and staff,” the press release reports. “The witness stated when (the witness) discovered that Juvenile No. 1 was serious, they told him they wanted nothing to do with it.”
The teen did manage to recruit another teen. In September 2013, both boys posted videos to an Internet site.
According to the press release, the video showed the boys firing and holding various guns. They also showed “dry ice” or “Drano” style bottle bombs being exploded at locations in Hawkins County.
“One video shows a gasoline bomb or Molotov cocktail being constructed and then detonated under the railroad trestle in the Phipps Bend Industrial Park,” the press release continues.
The sheriff said both youths have been under investigation since receiving the report and “they have never been a threat to the public since the investigation started.”
The first youth had a detention hearing in Hawkins County Juvenile Court on Thursday and is on house arrest on a $75,000 bond, requiring adult supervision around the clock.
A detention hearing for the second boy will take place at a later date.
Because of their ages, the sheriff said no other information about the teens could be released.
He cautioned other students at Hawkins County and other schools that “it is your responsibility if you hear someone making a threat, you need to let someone know.”
According to Hawkins County Chief Deputy Tony Allen, no additional press releases will take place until after the boys’ court hearings, which could take up to a year.
Because of the nature of the charges, the boys could be remanded to adult court, he said, depending on what District Attorney C. Berkeley Bell Jr.’s office decides.
-By Denise Williams, Tribune Staff Writer