FORT MYERS, Florida – Two teenagers are accused of planning a mass shooting at a Florida college that the local sheriff said was comparable to the 2018 Parkland School shooting, where 17 people were killed.
The 13 and 14-year-old boys were arrested Thursday and face charges of conspiracy to carry out a mass shooting following a report given to a teacher by a student that one of them was in possession of a gun in his backpack Wednesday at Harns Marsh High School.
“It could have been the next Parkland massacre, but we stopped them at the planning stage,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marcelo said, referring to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 14 students and three staff members died. The college is approximately 2 hours west of Parkland.
The tip was reported to the school resource manager. MPs could not find a gun when they searched the eighth grader’s bag, but found a map of the school with markings indicating the school’s indoor security cameras , Marcelo said.
The News-Press, which is part of the USA TODAY network, does not name the suspects because they are minors.
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After an investigation, detectives determined that the teens were studying the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where two students shot dead 12 students and a teacher.
Marcelo said the boys were taking steps to learn how to make homemade bombs and obtain guns on the black market.
A search of the home of one of the boys on Thursday morning uncovered a gun and several knives.
Marcelo said MPs responded almost 80 times at the boy’s home, but he did not specify for what reasons.
The two teens are being assessed at a mental health facility, Marcelo said.
Lee County Superintendent Ken Savage said the students were safe and he was grateful to the sheriff’s office for their swift action.
“Thank you, Sheriff Carmine Marcelo and your team, for your prompt response and your actions to protect our students and staff,” said Savage.