A judge has ordered two Florida middle school students to be held at a juvenile detention center for at least 21 days after allegedly planning to carry out a mass shooting imitating the 1999 Columbine massacre, the Daily Mail has reported.
School officials found the two students — Phillip Byrd, 14, and Connor Pruett, 13, who are in eighth-grade at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres, near Fort Myers — with a map of the school marked up to illustrate where each of its security cameras is located.
Detectives discovered that the boys were meticulously studying the Columbine shooting, trying to learn how to build a pipe bomb, and researching how to purchase guns on the black market.
Police also found guns, ammunition, and several knives in the homes of the teenagers, who are being charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting.
At the court session on Sunday during which the judge ordered them held at the detention center, Byrd’s mother Carrie Tuller cried as she defended her son, saying "He’s just a little boy. He didn’t think this was really serious. He didn’t think they were serious."
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said at a press conference following the detaining of the boys last week that "We were one second away from a Columbine here. I’m certain that my team of dedicated deputies and detectives acted promptly, investigated thoroughly, and prevented a very violent and dangerous act from being carried out," NBC News reported.
He added as well that "this could have been the next Parkland massacre, but we stopped them in the planning stages," referring to the shooting three years ago at Marjory Stonemam Douglas High School in which 17 people were killed.
The sheriff said that the two students are "well known" to police, as deputies had responded to calls to their homes almost 80 times combined, according to the Daily Mail.
Marceno said legal investigators will be looking into obtaining a risk protection order, which restricts access to firearms for those who pose a danger to themselves or others.
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