TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tampa police have arrested an expelled student after thwarting what they deemed a potentially "catastrophic" plot to set off a bomb at his former high school and cause mass casualties on the first day of classes next week, authorities said Wednesday.
Police Chief Jane Castor said Jared Cano, 17, had threatened to plant a bomb at Freedom High School in north Tampa and detonate the device when students return Tuesday.
The suspect was arrested Tuesday night after someone alerted police.
Chief Castor told a news conference that the purported bombing plot was planned minute by minute and the intent was to cause more casualties than the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which resulted in 13 deaths before the two gunmen killed themselves.
Chief Castor said police and the school system "were probably able to thwart a potentially catastrophic event, the likes of which the city of Tampa has not seen, and hopefully never will."
At Mr. Cano's apartment, police discovered materials to make pipe bombs, shrapnel, plastic tubing and timing and fusing devices, along with a fuel source, Chief Castor said. Police also said they found a journal containing schematic drawings of rooms inside the school and statements about the teenager's intent to kill.
The plot targeted specific school administrators and any students who were nearby, police said. Authorities did not name the administrators, nor would they disclose who tipped them off.
Mr. Cano's mother consented to a police search Tuesday evening, Chief Castor said. Police reported that they found a marijuana-growing operation in addition to the bomb-making materials. Besides drug charges, Mr. Cano faces felony charges of possessing bomb-making materials and threatening to throw, project, place or discharge a destructive device.
Authorities said Mr. Cano had several arrests as a juvenile on burglary, weapons and drug-possession charges. All had been either dismissed or no action had been taken.
Police Maj. John Newman said Mr. Cano had been on a list of juveniles whom police checked from time to time. "We've been very, very familiar with him," Maj. Newman said.
The St. Petersburg Times reported that prosecutors said at a Wednesday hearing that Mr. Cano repeated his bombing plan when he was arrested.
The Times reported that Mr. Cano tried to speak when he appeared before a judge Wednesday morning but was quickly hushed by a public defender standing beside him. "The plot wasn't ..." Mr. Cano said, before the public defender stopped him and told the judge that "he has no comment."
High school Principal Chris Farkas said Mr. Cano was expelled in April 2010 because of an incident not related to the school and would have been red-flagged if he tried to come back on campus.
Mr. Cano's Facebook page includes photos of him holding a machete and drinking from a bottle of malt liquor. He says he attends the "University of Marijuana," where he is studying "how to grow weed."
He lists two favorite quotes: "lessons not learned in blood are soon forgotten" and "dont trust anybody, cuz they all just wait for you to s-- a brick of gold so they can take it."
The Department of Children and Families said the agency investigated Mr. Cano's family in 2009. A spokesman gave no other details except to say the department found no evidence of abuse or neglect.