Crime & Justice

South Pasadena shooting plot: Students 'wanted to kill as many people as possible'

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10:46 a.m.: New details on arrests; students, parents react

Two teenage boys, 17 and 16 years old, had a “huge plan of a school massacre” at South Pasadena High School that involved killing three specific staff members along with “random students,” police said.

South Pasadena Police Chief Art Miller released new details regarding the planned shooting, including the students' ages, during a press conference Tuesday morning.

The suspects “confirmed very cold-heartedly in the investigation” that they were planning a shooting at the school, Miller said.

"They had identified three staff members at the school by name that they were targeting, along with some 'random students,' as they called it. They just wanted to — as they put it — they just wanted to kill as many people as possible," he said.

There was no target date and no weapons were found in their homes, but they had “potential availability of a firearm,” said Miller.

Evidence showed the students had talked about the plot on social media and had been researching weapons and how to make explosives, Miller said.

The department was able to obtain evidence of the planned shooting through Internet surveillance after getting a tip from a community member last Thursday, Miller said.

Police served the suspects with a warrant Monday and arrested them on suspicion of conspiracy and criminal threats. Their computers were confiscated. The suspects’ parents were cooperative and stunned, said Miller.

One South Pasadena resident who said he moved to the area specifically for the schools was also surprised by the arrests.

"It's scary. It's an unfortunate sign of the times, I guess, in which we live, that people have more access to weapons like this and information on how to carry these things out," said Brian Robinson, whose son is starting Pre-K this fall.

— KPCC staff

7:51 a.m.: Parents and students at South Pasadena High School expressed concern after two boys were arrested Monday for allegedly planning to kill three staffers then gun down as many students as possible.

The boys, who did not yet have weapons but were trying to get them, had been under constant surveillance since the school district informed police of their plans last Thursday, South Pasadena police Sgt. Brian Solinsky said Monday.

He would not elaborate on the plans or what form they took, but Solinsky said they were "very specific" and included named targets.

NBC4 said it spoke with students and parents about the arrests:

"Everyone doesn't want to go to school. They're scared," one student said.

"You never suspect anything like this so to think to hear this is why everyone is so panicky and shocked," another student said.

Student Jordan Jackmon told NBC4 that one of the students arrested was "very awkward" and "very low key about himself," adding that he rarely saw him talk. 

"Parents are expressing a lot of sadness with this news, a lot of fear. Wondering about whether there’ll be increased police presence in the schools, and in general a lot of concern," South Pasadena Mayor Marina Khubesrian said. "Thank God that this was averted."

South Pasadena Mayor Marina Khubesrian said parents were concerned about the possibility of a copycat incident but were reassured by preventive measures taken by police and school plans to beef up police presence on the first day of school Thursday.

"The police department did an active shooter training over the last year, and they are crediting that to how quickly everybody was able to mobilize and respond to the situation," Khubesrian told KPCC's Steve Julian. "So that will be ongoing. I think that's very reassuring for the parents to know that the city council has made it a priority for the police department to work with the schools to ensure safety given the culture of recent shootings."

"This is a prime example of school officials recognizing suspicious behavior," Solinsky said in a statement. "It was this information that helped prevent a horrific tragedy."

Police found evidence that the boys were researching rifles, submachine guns, bombs and other explosives, especially propane, police said.

"They were researching weapons and how to fire and assemble them," police Sgt. Robert Bartl told the Pasadena Star-News.

Enough evidence was gathered to serve warrants at the boys' homes Monday, Solinsky said.

One of them resisted, and police had to break into his house to take him into custody as he tried to run, Solinsky said.

The boys were both about to begin their senior year at South Pasadena High School in the community of about 25,000 people eight miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

The school's first day of classes is scheduled for Thursday, and police had hoped to make the arrests before then, though they found no evidence of a date for a planned attack, Bartl told the Star-News.

Detectives had been working around the clock and monitoring the boys since the threat first emerged, Solinsky said. Relatives of both boys had been questioned, he said, but would not elaborate further on the investigation or the evidence.

The police chief plans a news conference Tuesday morning to reveal more details.

The arrests came the day after another Los Angeles County boy was arrested on suspicion of posting online threats to shoot students at local schools, though sheriff's officials acknowledged that those threats were intended as pranks.

— AP with KPCC staff


This story has been updated.