Florida college students Connor Pruett and Phillip Byrd accused of plotting “another columbine”, facing judge

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Two teens accused of instigating a school shooting in the vein of “another Columbine” appeared Sunday morning before a judge in Lee County, Florida. They were arrested Thursday after a school official at Harns Marsh Middle School received a clue that one of the boys was carrying a gun in his backpack. They were taken into custody on Saturday. In a live-streamed press conference, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marcelo identified the students as Connor Pruett, 13, and Phillip Byrd, 14. Although authorities could not find a gun, they said they discovered a map of the school showing where its security cameras were placed. During the investigation, detectives also said they discovered that Pruett and Byrd were “thoroughly investigating” the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and trying to figure out how to buy guns on the black market.

The sheriff said the couple were “well known” to the sheriff’s department and that deputies had repeatedly responded to calls for trouble at their home. “It could have been the next Parkland massacre, but we stopped them at the planning stage,” Marcelo said. “We were a second away from another Columbine.” Byrd’s mother, Carrie Tuller, defended her son in court. “He’s just a little boy,” she said. “He didn’t think it was really serious.” The two teenagers are charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting. Their next court date is September 27.

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