Police in Minnesota on Tuesday arrested a teenager in possession of an arsenal of firearms, ammunition and explosive devices he reportedly admitted were part of an elaborate mass murder plot that included killing his family members and public school students, according to KARE-TV in Minneapolis.
John LaDue, 17, of Waseca, is charged with four counts of attempted first-degree murder, six counts of possessing explosive devices and and two counts of first-degree criminal damage to property, authorities said.
Waseca Police Capt. Kris Markeson said Thursday he believes LaDue, allegedly acting alone, would have succeeded with his plans — apparently set to occur within two weeks — had he not been caught.
"He intended to set off numerous bombs during the lunch hour and kill the school resource officers and set fires and shoot students and staff," Markeson said.
Waseca Schools Superintendent Tom Lee said they "escaped what could have been a horrific experience."
KARE noted that "Waseca's story is a story we wished could have been told the day before Sandy Hook and the night before Columbine."
Responding to a 911 call Tuesday about a suspicious-looking person with a backpack walking in and out of a storage facility in Waseca — which is about 80 miles south of the Twin Cities — police arrested LaDue in a locker where a bomb squad found three completed explosive devices and materials to make many more.
In addition, KARE reported, police found:
- bags of potassium perchlorate
- aluminum powder packages
- a bottle of smokeless power
- a bag of red iron oxide
- metal ball bearings
- remote firing systems
- a pressure cooker
- boxes of buckshot
- bomb-making wires, fuses, and pipes
LaDue reportedly told police about his plan, which was to commence with murdering his mother, father and sister with a .22 caliber firearm, and to conclude with his own death.
After killing his family, LaDue allegedly intended to head to an area outside Waseca and ignite fires to divert first responders out of town — then, investigators said, LaDue planned to go to the middle and high school campus during lunch and detonate pressure cooker bombs to kill students. In addition, LaDue allegedly planned to kill the school police liaison officer upon his response and then open fire on students.
LaDue allegedly told authorities he was fascinated by the school shootings at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Columbine, and that he idolized Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
LaDue also reportedly admitted his plot was written in a notebook he kept in a locked guitar case in his room where he also stored a gun safe containing an assault rifle, handguns and 400 rounds of ammunition. There, police discovered seven firearms, ammunition and three functional bombs, along with black clothing and a ski mask.
The discovery of the weapons and bombs and LaDue's arrest were preceded by disturbing finds revealed by melting snow at an elementary school playground in late March. Police said two devices were initially discovered there, one of which had detonated while a second had failed to ignite. Then four days later a third device was found inside a stuffed toy which had already detonated.
LaDue's Facebook page, identified in the KARE report, notes that he likes Stephen King novels, metal bands Machine Head and Deicide, as well as a TV show called "The Atheist Experience." It also includes an image of numerous dictators' photos surrounded by text that reads, "The experts agree...gun control works!"
"I taught him guitar, met him when he was 13 years old," Ryan Lano told KARE. "Only adjective I can come up with is I'm shocked at the information, this is new to me."
Superintendent Lee said school staff attempted to "build relationships" with LaDue.
"It's not like he was unknown to us. He was known. People made lots of contact with him," Lee told KARE. "But sometimes even when you're trying to do everything possible it doesn't turn out the way you want it to."
LaDue is in juvenile custody after staff in another facility refused to readmit him following LaDue's threat to strangle a mental health counselor with a telephone cord, according to Waseca County News.
Attempts were made to speak to LaDue's family in Waseca but KARE never got a response.
Note: Reports vary on the official spelling of the suspect's last name, whether it is "LaDue" or "La Due."