Community was in danger from Waseca teen's chemical stash, authorities say


A stash of chemicals found in a Waseca storage unit last month posed a potential threat to the community, regardless of whether the teenager accused of storing them there was ever going to fulfill his plan to make explosives with them and attack his school, a federal agent told the Mankato Free Press.

John LaDue, 17, was arrested April 29 after neighbors called to report a suspicious person at the storage unit.

Law enforcement officials say LaDue first intended to kill his mother, father and sister, and then head to Waseca Junior/Senior High School, where he planned to set off pressure-cooker bombs full of nails and metal ball bearings in the cafeteria. Amid the ensuing chaos, he intended to fatally shoot more students.

Police found LaDue inside the storage unit along with numerous materials that are used to make bombs, including potassium perchlorate, aluminum powder, red iron oxide and smokeless powder, as well as a pressure cooker, ball bearings and other small metal objects that could be used as shrapnel. The chemicals are used in small quantities to make illegal fireworks.

Scott Sweetow, who's in charge of the Minnesota field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the mere presence of those chemicals in the same place is "incredibly dangerous." Sweetow said amateur bomb makers might make a mistake when trying to put them together and cause an unintended explosion, he told the Free Press.

Sweetow added that chemical dust can accumulate on surfaces in a room, which can be ignited by static electricity or a spark from turning on a light switch. The chemicals can be ordered easily on various websites, Sweetow said.

The ATF was called in when the bomb plot was discovered, and the agency is also assisting with the investigation of how LaDue obtained several guns that were found at his house, including two handguns, and SKS rifle and several shotguns.

A gun dealer who spoke to the Mankato Free Press said the boy would have had to steal the guns or have someone else buy them for him, since he was not yet 18. LaDue told investigators he was going to buy a gun on his own and obtain ammunition by breaking into a home and stealing from a relative, according to the juvenile complaint.

LaDue has been charged in juvenile court with four counts of attempted murder, two counts of first-degree damage to property and six counts of possession of a bomb. At a court appearance on Monday he denied the charges against him.

Prosecutors are asking that LaDue's case be transferred to adult court. The judge ordered a study, which includes psychological exams, to determine whether to grant that request. The study could take until at least July.

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