Two Florida Teens Arrested for Allegedly Plotting School Shooting

Connor Pruett (left) and Phillip Byrd (right) Photo Source: Connor Pruett, left, and Phillip Byrd, right. (NBC 2 Florida)

Two Florida teenagers have been arrested after allegedly trying to pull off a school shooting at a middle school near Fort Myers.

Their plot was foiled after a teacher at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres notified the school resource officer and the school’s administration about a tip concerning the two teens. According to Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, the student who reported the tip explained to the teacher that one of the students had a gun in their backpack. Authorities pulled the 8th-grade student from class and upon searching his backpack, they did not find a gun. However, Marceno explains that the student had a map of the school that depicted the location of “each of the school’s interior cameras.”

As the investigation unfolded, authorities revealed that two students ages 13 and 14 years old were subsequently identified as having been “involved in a plot to carry out a school shooting.”

At a news conference where the students were identified by name, authorities explain that their investigation also uncovered that the teens had an interest in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, where teens Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, killed 12 of their classmates and a teacher before they turned their guns on themselves. Marceno shared that the teens had been researching the school shooting and were “extensively studying to learn more about the incident and the shooters."

Marceno went on to add that the pair was also trying to learn how to put together pipe bombs and how to gain access to weapons through the black market.

Authorities were able to quickly secure search warrants for the teens’ homes. There, they were able to recover a gun and several knives. Marceno described the search as “disturbing” as they uncovered what appeared to be evidence showing the teens were attempting to pull off a school shooting.

After interviewing both teens, detectives were able to determine that they “both met the criteria for evaluation at a mental facility.” Both teens will be held for psychiatric evaluation before they are moved to a detention or juvenile facility as prescribed under Florida’s Baker Act.

The community has hailed the school and the authorities for their quick response. The superintendent of the Lee County School District explains that students were safe during the school day and that "as soon as students reported the potential threat, the teacher notified administrators, who immediately brought in the school resource officer. Together they emptied the classroom and investigated.”

The principal of the school, Alex Dworzanski, praised his students and staff for taking the appropriate action. “I commend the students who came forward to report the threat and the quick action of the staff,” Dworzanski shared. “The safety of our students and staff is at the core of what we do.”

Authorities also explained how their quick response helped thwart what they described as the next “Parkland massacre,” referring to the 2018 Florida high school shooting that left 17 people dead.

"We were one second away from a Columbine here. I’m certain that my team of dedicated deputies and detectives acted promptly, investigated thoroughly, and prevented a very violent and dangerous act from being carried out.” Marceno explained.

The teens had been on authorities’ radar. Between the two teens, authorities say they have responded to calls to the teens’ homes almost 80 times.

Both students are facing a charge of conspiracy to commit a mass shooting.

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate at James Madison University where she studied English and Education. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and two little girls. Although she considers herself a workaholic, when she’s not juggling work, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.