A Minnesota teenager who idolized a gunman from a Colorado high school massacre was charged Thursday with planning to kill his parents and sister and then kill students and staff at his school, authorities said.
Police arrested the 17-year-old suspect from the city of Waseca on Tuesday and charged him in juvenile court with four counts of attempted first degree murder, two counts of first degree attempted criminal damage to property and six counts of possession of an explosive or incendiary device by a person under age 18.
The suspect remains in custody and was identified by authorities because of the severity of the charges and because he is over the age of 16.
He had planned to kill his family, set a fire in rural Waseca to distract authorities and then head to the building that houses Waseca's junior and senior high schools, with more than 900 students, said police Capt. Kris Markeson.
The suspect laid out his plans in an extensive journal and amassed bomb-making materials including gunpowder and ball bearings as well as firearms and ammunition, Waseca, police said.
Based on the suspect's account to police and his journal, he planned to set off numerous bombs during lunch, kill a school resource officer as he responded to help, then set fires and shoot students and staff before being killed by law enforcement officers, Markeson said.
Markeson told reporters that authorities believe the teenager was acting alone and would have carried out the attack in the next few weeks if he hadn't been caught. Markeson said he was disturbed by the amount of guns and other material the youth obtained. He said he could not divulge if specific students were targeted. He said police were tipped off by a resident who reported a suspicious person at a self-storage facility.
"This case is a classic example of citizens doing the right thing in calling the police when things seem out of place. By doing the right thing, [an] unimaginable tragedy has been prevented," Markeson said.
School Superintendent Thomas Lee said the 11th grader was known to school officials, but they had no major issues with him. He said teachers tried to reach out to the boy, but he was shy.
"We have escaped what could have been a horrific experience," Lee said.
Police encountered the suspect and saw bomb-making materials at the storage unit, Markeson said. Police searching the unit and at his family's house found firearms, ammunition, prepared bombs and the papers documenting his plans, Markeson said.
The investigation began in late March after three small explosive devices were discovered at an elementary school playground in the city of 9,400 people, about 80 miles south of Minneapolis. The youth allegedly admitted setting off practice bombs there.
Markeson said the investigation would take several more weeks.
According to the charging documents, The Free Press of Mankato reported, the suspect kept a 180-page notebook that detailed his plans. He allegedly told police he planned to shoot his mother, father and sister, then start a fire in a rural field to distract first responders while he went to the school to set off pressure-cooker bombs in the cafeteria. He also allegedly planned to throw Molotov cocktails, gun down students and kill a school liaison officer who was helping injured students.
He said his ultimate goal was for a SWAT team to kill him.
The teen allegedly referenced the Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook school shootings in his notebook, and idolized the Columbine shooters.
According to the documents, the suspect was initially defensive but told officers he would tell them what he was doing if they could guess correctly. When an officer guessed he was making explosive devices, he allegedly said "yes" and agreed to speak. He allegedly told police he would have shot the responding officer if he had brought a gun to the storage unit.
He told police he had ammunition, guns and bombs in his bedroom and provided a key to his gun safe to officers. Police recovered seven firearms, ammunition and three functional bombs from the boy's home, along with black clothing and a ski mask, KARE-TV reported.
The 17-year-old made his first court appearance Thursday and was sent to a juvenile detention center in Red Wing, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported. His next court date is May 12.
Al Jazeera and wire services