A 17-year old Alabama teen was arrested for allegedly planning to bomb his high school using homemade explosives. The boy wrote about his planned ‘terrorist attack’ in a journal that a teacher found left behind in a classroom.
Derek Shrout, a student at Russell County High School, used bomb-making information that he found on the Internet to construct a device that Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor says was “a step or two away from being ready to explode.”
Shrout had prepared his bombs using several dozen small tobacco cans and two large cans, which he drilled holes into and filled with pellets. Investigators did not find black powder, butane and fuses, which are necessary to complete the explosives. But Taylor knew what he was doing: in his journal, the teen correctly outlined the necessary steps to complete the deadly grenades.
The teenager apparently had sketched out two large cans labeled “Fat Boy” and “Little Man,” the code names of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
“It would have been serious,” Taylor said in an interview with the Columbus Ledger-Inquirer.
The teen’s plot was foiled when a teacher found his journal left behind in her class, in which he outlined the plan for his attack. The teacher came across the plans while searching for a name in the journal.
“The teacher could have just discarded the journal but didn’t,” Taylor said. The book was given to a school administrator, who eventually handed it to the sheriff’s office. Shrout was immediately arrested and is now facing a felony charge for attempted assault.
While detained and interrogated, the teen denied that he was planning out a terrorist attack, claiming that his journal was simply a work of fiction. The earliest entries were written down just three days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 26 people dead.
Shrout’s plot has been called a hate crime, since the teen self-identified as a white supremacist and “has a lot of pent up anger toward blacks,” Taylor says.
Senior class president David Kelly told WTVM-TV that the boy frequently gave Nazi salutes at the school and made other students feel uncomfortable.
“In the hallway, at breakfast, at the lunch tables, after school where we have our bus parking lot, he’d have this big old group of friends and they’d go around doing the whole white power crazy stuff,” he said.
Shrout isn’t the first high school student to plan out a bomb attack in recent time. In 2011, 16-year-old Hared Cono of Tampa, Florida plotted to bomb his high school after being expelled. Investigators discovered a minute-to-minute attack plan mapped out in the boy’s bedroom.
While the two students had different motives behind their plots, the most recent case sheds further light on the issue of violence and mental health in the US, which have been fiercely debated in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. Many of America’s mass murderers are described as quiet, lonely individuals, which Charles A. Williams, a Drexel University psychology professor, finds troubling.
“The more isolated they are, the more socially castigated they are, the more they’re cut off, they start to stew and their evil and sinister thoughts metastasize in their minds like a cancer” he said after the foiled plot in Tampa, Fl. “The signs were all there. It was textbook.”