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14th Sep 2021

World news: Florida school “seconds away from Columbine massacre” as two boys are arrested

“He’s just a little boy. He didn’t think this was really serious.”

A pair of teenage boys have been arrested in Florida after allegedly planning a mass shooting at their school.

Thirteen-year-old Conner Pruett and 14-year-old Phillip Byrd were taken into custody at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres, Florida, after another student told a teacher they thought one of the boys had a gun in his bag.

The boy’s backpack was searched —  no weapon was found, but other disturbing materials were, including a map of the school with the locations of all of the cameras in the building marked.

Search warrants were issued for both teens’ homes, where authorities found a gun and several knives.

Authorities also learned that the teens had an interest in the Columbine massacre; a tragic school shooting that happened April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, when two 12th-graders, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold gunned down 12 of their fellow students and one teacher before turning their guns on themselves.

Pruett and Byrd were allegedly studying the attack and learning how to construct pipe bombs and how to buy firearms off the black market.

The teens were well known to police, and it’s reported that officers have responded to calls at their homes in the past for disturbances a combined 80 times.

At a news conference, Sheriff Carmine Marceno said: “This could’ve been the next Parkland massacre. We were seconds away from a Columbine here.”

Principal Alex Dworzanski praised the students who tipped off teachers: “I commend the students who came forward to report the threat and the quick action of the staff.”

Phillip Byrd’s mother, Carrie Tuller has spoken out to say her son is “innocent”, insisting: “He’s just a little boy. He didn’t think this was really serious.”

She also said that she’ll be “switching him out” of Hans Marsh Middle School.

The teens have been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting. Both boys were ordered to be held at a juvenile facility for at least 21 days and are currently receiving a psychiatric evaluation.