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A Waseca teenager's thwarted plot to slaughter his family and bomb his school had chilling similarities to several mass U.S. killings.
Investigators said the 17-year-old they identified as John LaDue first intended to kill his mother, father and sister, and then head to Waseca Junior/Senior High School, where he'd create a diversion to distract first responders – a tactic attempted by the Columbine High School killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
The teen then had planned to set off pressure-cooker bombs full of nails and metal ball bearings in the cafeteria, a similar tactic to that of the Boston Marathon bombers. Amid the ensuing chaos, he intended to fatally shoot more students, also reminiscent of the Columbine killings.
KSTP reports county prosecutors Friday filed a motion to have the teen be charged as an adult. A hearing is set for May 12.
“It’s just too scary to put in words,” one parent of children in Waseca’s middle school and high school told the Star Tribune. “Everybody in town feels sick to their stomach. Scared. There were tears today.”
LaDue had initially planned to carry out the attack on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shootings, but that plan failed when he realized the date fell on a Sunday this year, police say.
Investigators revealed details of the plot Thursday, and the story was among top national news headlines by Friday morning.
Police arrested the 17-year-old Tuesday night after the Bloomington bomb squad executed searches at his home and storage facility in Waseca, in connection with small explosive devices that were found on the playground of Hartley Elementary School in March.
LaDue has been charged with four counts of attempted first-degree murder, six counts of possessing explosive or incendiary devices and two counts of criminal damage to property.
The criminal complaint against the teen said he planned to shoot and kill his mother, father and sister in their home, then light a fire in a field to distract authorities before detonating bombs at the school, KEYC says.
"The information that has been revealed is that we've escaped what could have been a horrific experience," Waseca Schools Superintendent Tom Lee told reporters.
Residents in the town of about 9,400 residents, roughly 70 miles south of the Twin Cities, were stunned.
“Crazy that there's actually kids out in Waseca schools threatening to kill other kids and blow up schools and all that other stuff,” Waseca resident Damian Hanks told FOX 9. “I'm speechless hearing about it.”
Police say the plot was to unfold in the next two weeks, the Mankato Free Press reports. Police found a 180-page notebook in LaDue's bedroom that documented detailed plans for how he was going to use the explosives, firearms and ammunition he had acquired, some of them stolen from relatives, investigators say.
“My personal feeling is that I’m very disturbed by the amount of items that he had of that nature,” Capt. Kris Markeson, of Waseca police, said, WCCO reported.
Police found at least three completed bombs at the teen's home, which the Bloomington Bomb Squad destroyed at the Waseca Municipal Airport, the Free Press noted.
Officials on Thursday said both the high school and the Hartley Elementary School, where remnants of an explosive device were found in March, had been swept for explosives.
Investigators said the teen's notebook indicates LaDue idolized the Columbine shooters, and his writings include critiques of what Harris and Klebold had done right and wrong in their attack. The 17-year-old also chronicled his thoughts about shootings at Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Waseca police arrested the teen after they got a call about a suspicious person at a MiniMax Storage complex. They found the teen inside a storage unit with numerous materials used in bomb making, including ammunition boxes, a scale, a pressure-cooker box and packaging material for red iron oxide, the Free Press reports.
Police say LaDue is cooperating with the investigation. He is being held in a juvenile detention center in Red Wing and is next due in court May 12.