WASECA, Minn. (WCCO) — A Waseca, Minn., teenager is charged with attempted murder, possessing explosives, and attempting to damage property after allegedly planting a number of devices at a school playground.
John David LaDue, 17, had also obtained weapons and intended to kill his father, mother, sister, and a school liaison officer, investigators say. He allegedly intended to plant devices at Waseca Junior and Senior High School.
“My personal feeling is that I’m very disturbed by the amount of items that he had of that nature,” said Capt. Kris Markeson, of Waseca police.
According to the juvenile petition, LaDue admitted to having set off explosive devices previously near Hartley Elementary School.
He was arrested on Tuesday after Waseca Police and the Bloomington Bomb Squad executed search warrants at his home and a storage facility in Waseca. In his bedroom, authorities found stockpiles of handguns, automatic weapons and homemade bombs.
Investigators say that LaDue admitted to idolizing Eric Harris, who along with Dylan Klebold orchestrated the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. Police said the teenager originally wanted to carry out his plan on April 20 to commemorate the anniversary of that event, but didn’t because it was Easter Sunday and school was not in session.
Police said they believe LaDue intended to carry out his attack within the ensuing weeks. He kept a 180-page notebook with detailed plans for how he intended to use the explosives, firearms and ammunition he had accrued. Some of the items found in LaDue’s bedroom and storage locker had been stolen from relatives.
According to Waseca Police, LaDue planned to set off the bombs and kill the resource officer as soon as he responded. He also allegedly planned to set a fire off downtown to sidetrack officials before bombing the school and shooting students.
Officials say that LaDue studied school shootings, so he could cause as much carnage as possible.
He told police he expected SWAT teams to kill him. He said he would have shot at the arresting officers on Tuesday if he’d had a gun on him, but didn’t because all he had was a knife.
Police say that Chelsie Shellhas alerted them to the boy’s presence at the storage facility on Tuesday after she sensed something was wrong.
“He shut the door, and I thought it looked funny,” Shellhas said. “Because, normally, we see people come here, and it doesn’t take them 10 minutes to open a storage shed, so that’s why I called it in.”
Markeson said that by her informing police of LaDue’s behavior, an “unimaginable tragedy has been prevented.”
LaDue was a B-student who played guitar. Students at his school described him as quiet and shy.
“He seemed like a good kid,” said Lucas Hagel, his math partner. “You’d never expect it from him.”
The district superintendent just wants to know one thing: Why?
Police say they are confident LaDue was acting alone, yet they are baffled as to how he was able to collect such deadly materials.
LaDue’s parents are not talking with reporters.
His grandmother said he was a good kid, adding that she saw him this past weekend, and that there was absolutely no sign of trouble.
Parents of the young children who attend Hartley Elementary School expressed concern Thursday about the explosives found in March.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Kristina Treat, whose 6-year-old attends the school. “I just wanted to know why.”
Tracey Frederick, Treat’s mother, says she’s glad police took that incident seriously, but admits when she first heard about it, she didn’t think much of it.
“When it first happened, I thought it was no big deal,” Frederick said, “but to hear what we heard to today is just heartbreaking and devastating.”
Frederick said that Waseca is a good town, and this incident is not reflective of the community.
She added that she feels sad for LaDue’s family.
The juvenile petition lists 12 separate criminal counts against LaDue.