We are learning more scary details about the plans from a stopped-school shooting plot at Harns Marsh Middle School. 14-year-old Phillip Byrd and 13-year-old Connor Pruett studied and analyzed the 1999 Columbine massacre as inspiration for their own plot.
In their mug shots and in their handcuffs Connor Pruett and Phillip Byrd look young, but sheriff’s deputies say they are old enough to plot a school shooting. And that is why the sheriff asked a judge to issue risk protection orders (RPO).
“An RPO has nothing to do with the purchase of firearms, it has everything to do with the possession of firearms,” said Douglas Rudman, a criminal defense attorney, and former Palm Beach County prosecutor.
According to Politifact, an RPO in the state of Florida, if granted by a judge, would allow for the judge to authorize a search at the home of the person it applies to. During that search firearms or ammunition would be temporarily secured.
In new court documents the RPO’s list Byrd and Pruett’s parents ‘on behalf’ of their children. Both Rudman and Pruett’s attorney told WINK News it is because the kids are minors.
The RPO’s in this case mean the boys are not able to touch a gun for the next year. Any guns the parents have, the parents can keep.
“We’re dealing with, we’re dealing with a constitutional protection. Okay, the second amendment,” said Rudman.
A photo found during the investigation showed Pruett’s father’s rifle.
The sheriff’s office said that the rifle was not taken by LCSO, but in executing a search warrant the Lee County Sheriff’s Office did collect other evidence.
From Pruett’s house deputies recovered An Xbox, Chromebook and B.B. gun.
From Byrd’s house, they recovered an unknown black firearm, rifle magazines and several knives.
“I mean, now the scary thing is, is what do you do with those knives? Can they get those knives back?” Said Rudman, who is no stranger to RPO’s which he said don’t cover knives.
Rudman also knows from experience that a judge does not grant every RPO request. “I’ve tried about five of these, and I’ve won two of them. And I can tell you at the end of the day. This is again, an example of how lessons that we learned from the Stoneman Douglas shooting, being applied properly, can actually avoid another tragedy.”
Court documents outline details of the teens’ plot:
Searches for guns pipe bombs and napalm on a school-issued computer. That’s just the tip of the iceberg from more than a thousand pages of court documents laying out a scary plot by two boys to shoot up Harns Marsh Middle School.
Byrd and Pruett also looked online at how they could buy a gun on the black market and talked to friends about their plans. Even trying to recruit some of them to join the plot.
Court documents uncovered by WINK News show detectives found lots of evidence on the boy’s cell phones and on their school-issued Chromebooks.
Images found on Byrd’s cell phone show the teenager holding a rifle and an apparent attempt to test homemade napalm.
Lee County deputies found those images and more, which they say led them to arrest Byrd and Pruett for plotting a mass shooting at Harns Marsh Middle School.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said when they were arrested, “these kids planned to buy guns on the black market, build pipe bombs.” Six weeks later we know a lot more about their plan.
“Since Columbine, since the internet became so prevalent, there’s a whole underground entity of people who are fascinated by these events,” said WINK News safety and security specialist Rich Kolko.
The newly obtained court records contained hundreds of pages of Pruett’s and Byrd’s web search history from their school-issued Chromebooks.
The documents showed that they searched the internet for guns and even looked into how to buy one on the black market.
The boys also researched how to make pipe bombs, the massacre at Columbine and the killers who were responsible.
“And they spend a great deal of time studying them and talking about them with like-minded individuals. Sounds like that’s exactly what these two young boys were doing,” said Kolko.
The records also show Byrd told deputies the plan was to knock out the gas line at Harns Marsh Middle School with a pipe bomb. Once the bombs exploded Byrd would start shooting.
The weapons Byrd hoped to use according to the court documents are a Mach-10 and a shotgun just like the ones used at columbine.
Court documents also say Pruett told detectives their plan was in the beginning stages and that they had no target date.
Deputies arrested the teenagers after a teacher overheard them talking about their plot and notified the school resource officer.