Police in Florida say two teenage boys planning a massacre at their middle school were arrested after a student told a teacher one of them might have a gun in their backpack. "This could have been the next Parkland massacre but we stopped them in the planning stages," Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said after the teens were arrested Thursday. Marceno said the teacher at Harns Marsh Middle School in Fort Myers told the school resource officer about the student's tip, USA Today reports. No weapon was found in the eighth-grader's backpack, but deputies did find a map of the school with the location of every security camera marked.
The school is around two hours west of Parkland, where a gunman killed 14 students and three teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. The sheriff said the Fort Myers students, who are 13 and 14 years old, had been researching the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado and had been looking into how to build pipe bombs and buy guns on the black market. Police say searches of their homes uncovered "disturbing evidence" including a gun and several knives.
Marceno said the teens were "well known" to deputies, who had been called to their homes almost 80 times in total, WTSP reports. Both students were sent for evaluation at a mental health facility. They appeared in front of a judge Sunday and were ordered to spend 21 days in secure juvenile detention, reports WINK News. The mother of the 14-year-old student defended her son in remarks at the hearing. "He’s just a little boy," she said. "He didn’t think this was really serious. He didn’t think they were serious." (Read more school shooting stories.)