Two teens charged with foiled Columbine-inspired mass shooting plot at Volunteer High
By News Channel 11 Staff
HAWKINS COUNTY, TN (WJHL) -
The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office held a news conference Friday morning to discuss a foiled school shooting plot at Volunteer High School, where two juveniles had allegedly intended to kill as many students and staff as possible.
According to a Hawkins County Sheriff's Office news release, on Oct. 25, an employee with Youth Villages Counseling Services -- a private nonprofit organization that is reportedly dedicated to helping emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families -- reportedly called the sheriff's office about a juvenile they had been counseling.
The employee told deputies that a journal he had kept contained information that led them to believe that he had been planning a mass shooting at Volunteer High School in Church Hill.
According to a Hawkins County news release, the employee said they had talked to the juvenile and discovered he had devised a plan to carry out the shooting in his senior year.
Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said during the investigation into the school shooting plot, officers conducted a search warrant at a local residence on Dec. 12, where several guns, journals, firecrackers, gunpowder and floor plans of VHS were found.
Lawson said written in the journals were detailed plans of attack, studies of the maximum amount of students in the lunch room and hallways, where to block exits and plans to eliminate the school resource officer first.
According to the news release, on Dec. 18, a friend of the juvenile said he had been approached by the juvenile in the 2013-14 school year about wanting to come to school with bombs and guns to kill students and staff. He told deputies that when he discovered the juvenile was serious he told him he wanted nothing to do with the plot.
Lawson said the second juvenile reportedly involved in the planning of the school shooting plot was said to be like the first juvenile.
On Dec. 27, the second charged juvenile gave a statement that he was friends with the first juvenile, and said his friend had reportedly become obsessed with the Columbine High School shooting of 1999 in Colorado.
Lawson added that the first juvenile had taken "the time to study their plan of attack, and he found their mistakes that they made, that he would not. This young man was infatuated by serial killers and mass murderers."
The second juvenile told authorities that he and the first juvenile had planned how to attack and kill students and faculty at Volunteer.
Lawson said videos posted by the juveniles in September 2013 were found online and showed both teens firing and holding various shotguns, as well as showing "dry ice" or "Drano" style bottle bombs being exploded at locations in Hawkins County.
According to the news release, one of the videos showed a gasoline bomb or "moltov cocktail" being built and detonated under the railroad trestle in the Phipps Bend Industrial Park -- the former site of the canceled Tennessee Valley Authority Phipps Bend Nuclear Plant.
Lawson said the juveniles also reportedly attempted to recruit other students to help carry out the school shooting plot.
“Both juveniles (that) have been under this investigation were not present at Volunteer High School during this,” he said. “They have never been a threat to the public since this investigation started.”
Both juveniles were charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism and possession of explosive components.
A detention hearing was held Thursday in Hawkins County juvenile court and the first juvenile was set at $75,000 bond with restrictions of house arrest, full-time adult supervision and was restrained from all Hawkins County school property.
The second juvenile will reportedly have a bond hearing later on and both are still in state custody.
“I want to reiterate, these gentlemen were never a threat to the general public or the students of Volunteer High School," Lawson said.
Hawkins County Director of Schools Steve Starnes said the school system has been in constant contact with the sheriff’s office during the investigation
“I want to thank their department and their officers for the way they’ve handled this,” Starnes said. “The safety and security of all students is of the highest priority to the Hawkins County Schools. We have taken all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our students, and will continue to remain vigilant in our efforts.”
Starnes said the school system is unable to release specific information about a student who is a minor, due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Lawson said he wanted to stress to students of every school that it is their responsibility to report a potential threat or plan of attack.
“If you hear someone making a threat, or planning to attack a school, you need to let authorities know,” Lawson said. “In this case, this could have been an all-out attack.”
Tune in to News Channel 11 at 5 p.m. for a full report, and keep checking WJHL.com for updates as more information becomes available. Previous story: Two male juveniles were arrested for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and other charges, after they reportedly planned a mass shooting at Volunteer High School in Hawkins County.
According to Assistant District Attorney Ryan Blackwell, a detention hearing was held for the two juveniles in Rogersville.
While the names and ages of the juveniles were not released, Blackwell said the two juveniles could be eligible to be transferred to an adult court.According to Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson, a press conference has been planned for Friday at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the case
Hawkins County Schools superintendent Charlotte Britton said information from the Hawkins County Board of Education will be released Friday during the press conference with the Hawkins County Sheriff's Department in Rogersville. No other comment about the alleged planned mass shooting was given.
News Channel 11 will be live streaming the press conference Friday morning. You can watch the live stream on News Channel 11 and right here on http://wjhl.com/live .
Keep checking WJHL.com for updates as more information becomes available.