In the wake of the bloody school shooting in South Florida Wednesday, many Americans are desperately asking: What can we do to prevent these tragedies from happening?
Meanwhile, one courageous grandmother in Washington, who saw alarming signs this week that her grandson was about to conduct his own high-school killing spree, acted quickly and likely saved many innocent lives.
Just 24 hours before the Valentine’s Day shooting rampage that left 17 adults and high-school students dead in Florida, another potentially horrific mass shooting was thwarted by the concerned grandmother.
In Everett, Washington, police arrested Joshua Alexander O’Connor, 18, Tuesday after he made “upcoming and credible threats” to murder students at Aces Alternative High School with a rifle and homemade explosive devices.
O’Connor’s grandmother – who had read O’Connor’s disturbing journal entries and learned of his plan – quickly contacted the Everett Police Department.
“I’m preparing myself for the school shooting,” O’Connor reportedly wrote in one entry. “I can’t wait. My aim has gotten much more accurate. … I can’t wait to walk into that class and blow all those f—ers away.”
He also expressed his desire to kill as many people as possible so his massacre would capture the public’s attention.
O’Connor wrote: “I’ve been thinking a lot. I need to make this shooting bombing at Kamiak famous. I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I need to make this count. I’ve been reviewing many mass shootings/bombings (and attempted bombings). I’m learning from past shooters’/bombers’ mistakes, so I don’t make the same ones.”
After reading the journal, the grandmother discovered a rifle stashed in the teen’s guitar case. She then alerted authorities to her grandson’s apparent plans.
“That would have probably been one of the hardest calls she has probably ever made,” Everett Police Officer Aaron Snell told Seattle’s KCPQ-13 News, “but I think the content of the journal and some of the other evidence in the house was enough that she was alarmed enough.”
When detectives searcher the grandmother’s home, they also found “military styled inert grenades and other evidentiary items.” O’Connor had detailed his plans to make pressure-cooker bombs, activate inert grenades and use explosives to cause as much carnage as possible.
In the journal, O’Connor also wrote about an armed robbery of a local convenience store Monday evening. The teen admitted to police that he had participated in the robbery, and he claimed it made him feel powerful, according to KCPQ-13 News. He reportedly used the same rifle found in the guitar case during the robbery. Another suspect was reportedly involved in the robbery, and the two got away with $100.
O’Connor had planned to use the money acquired during the store robbery to fund his school massacre.
When police went to arrest O’Connor, the teen began running from authorities after slipping his hand out of the cuffs. O’Connor assaulted an officer, kicking him as he tried to flee.
On Wednesday, school officials praised O’Connor’s grandmother for acting quickly to prevent the likely tragedy.
“The best defense against this kind of thing – the school shooting – is that if you hear something or see something, tell authorities. And that’s exactly what she did,” school district spokesman Andy Muntz told KCPQ-13 News.
O’Connor appeared in court Wednesday, and his attorney argued that he was only venting his frustrations in his journal.
“There is no ammunition. There is nothing else to suggest other than his statement in his journal,” the attorney said.
The judge set O’Connor’s bail at $5 million after the prosecutor argued that the teen is a threat to the community.