Grandmother praised for thwarting alleged school shooting plot in Washington

Posted at 7:30 PM, Feb 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-15 19:30:41-05

EVERETT, Wash. - The grandmother of an 18-year-old Washington state student who allegedly flipped a coin to decide which school to target may have prevented a massacre one day before a gunman opened fired in a Parkland, Florida high school.

Police said they arrested Joshua O’Connor on attempted murder charges after his grandmother turned him in.  O'Connor's grandmother became concerned after finding journal entries outlining a deadly plot and a semi-automatic rifle hidden in a guitar case, according to authorities.

On Wednesday, a prosecutor told the judge that the student at ACES Alternative High School, about 30 miles north of Seattle, was a grave danger to the community, according to KCPQ. The judge found probable cause to keep the case moving, setting a high bail of $5 million. He has not been formally charged.

Court documents revealed some of O'Connor’s journal entries, which police called evidence of the student’s plan to shoot up his high school.

“I am preparing myself for the school shooting," one entry reads. "I can’t wait. My aim has gotten much more accurate, I can’t wait to walk into that class and blow all those (expletive) away.”

O'Connor continues by writing, “I’ve been thinking a lot, I need to make this shooting bombing at Kamiak infamous. I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I need to make this count. I’ve been reviewing many mass shootings/bombings (and attempted bombings) I’m learning from past shooters/bombers’ mistakes, so I don’t make the same ones."

During a search warrant served at O'Connor's residence, detectives seized the teen's journal, inert grenades, a cellular phone, and a High Point 9 mm carbine rifle.

“The defendant himself in his writings refers to the same type (of) rifle as Eric Harris (had) in the Columbine shooting,” said one prosecutor.

Police say the high school student did a coin flip to decide whether he would target Kamiak High School or ACES, where he attends. He mentions ACES won the flip.

On Wednesday, the 18-year-old's defense attorney said her client was only venting and musing: “There is no ammunition, there is nothing else to suggest other than his statement in his journal.”

A journal entry alone is usually not enough for someone to face attempted murder charges, but police say it’s all about what the student did in conjunction with the writings. Detectives searching his home have already found two inert grenades. Journal entries talk about how he was researching ways to make the grenades live by using black powder. Police say the teen also wrote about using pressure cooker bombs, including how to layer the ingredients and where to place the device.

In the course of searching O'Connor's home, detectives said the found evidence linking the student to a robbery at the AM-PM mini-mart Monday night.

“I would also argue that the robbery itself is a substantial step in an effort to raise funds,” said one prosecutor, who alleged that the young man robbed the store to raise funds to buy more materials for his shooting plot.

Police say O'Connor admitted to the robbery, telling them he felt powerful during the course of the crime. Another suspect is involved in the robbery as well and police say the student used the same rifle in the store robbery that his grandmother found in the guitar case.

They got away with $100 and the store manager told KCPQ the female store clerk is still shaken up by the crime. On Tuesday, during his arrest, O'Connor managed to slip one of his hands out of the handcuffs and tried to run from police, even kicking an officer during the attempted escape, the station reported.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman called the arrest "a case where the adage ‘see something, say something’ potentially saved many lives.”

“It is critically important for community members, to include students and parents, to remain observant and immediately report odd or suspicious behaviors with our children or with fellow students," Templeman said. "We were fortunate that a family member believed there were credible threats and contacted law enforcement for further investigation. I’m sure the decision was difficult to make, but fortunately, it was the correct one.”