By Josh Moniz
CNHI News Service
WASECA, Minn. — A 17-year old student is accused of organizing an elaborate plot to murder his family and attack his school sometime in the next two weeks in an effort to kill as many students as he could, according to police.
John David LaDue of Waseca, Minn., was charged Thursday with four felony counts of first-degree attempted murder, six felony counts of possessing explosive or incendiary devices while under 18 years old and two felony counts of first-degree attempted damage to property.
According to a 180-page notebook obtained from LaDue's bedroom by police, he laid out all the details of his plot to assault the high school with pressure-cooker bombs, Molotov cocktails and deadly firearms.
The notebook outlined LaDue's thoughts about the Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook school shootings, police said. He idolized the Columbine shooters, critiquing what they had done right or wrong in their own attack.
He planned to carry out his school attack on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting, but his plan was disrupted by the anniversary falling on Easter Sunday this year, police said.
Police found a massive cache of firearms, bomb-making material and at least three completed bombs when they raided LaDue's home. The Bloomington Bomb Squad destroyed the completed bombs at the Waseca Municipal Airport.
Police claim that bomb squad officers said it was the largest amount of bomb-making material they had ever seen in their job. The bomb squad serves the entire state.
During a press conference Thursday, Waseca Police Capt. Kris Markeson said both the high school and the Hartley Elementary School, where remnants of an explosive device were found in March, had been swept and cleared of any bombs.
Markeson said the Waseca police investigation provided no evidence anyone else was involved in LaDue's plot nor any details from his journal noting coordination with other individuals.
Marekson declined to state whether LaDue planned to target specific students. However, he said he believed LaDue would have succeeded with his plot if he had not been discovered before he launched his attack.
According to the police report, Waseca police discovered LaDue when they responded to a call about a suspicious person at MiniMax Storage at 5th S.E. St. The caller said a tall white male with a backpack was observed opening a storage unit, stepping inside and closing the door behind him.
Officers found LaDue inside the unit, which was lit by small lanterns and contained numerous materials used to produce explosive devices. The equipment included ammunition boxes, a scale, a pressure-cooker box and packaging material for red iron oxide.
LaDue was initially defensive but told officers he would speak with them if they could correctly guess what he was doing in the unit.
When an officer guessed he was making explosive devices, he allegedly said “Yes” and agreed to voluntarily speak with officers at the Waseca Police Department, according to the report. Waseca police report he is still cooperating with officers.
According to the report, LaDue told police how he planned to kill his family before his attack on the Waseca Junior and Senior High School. He planned to shoot his mother, father and sister with a .22-caliber rifle because it made less noise. He said he planned to travel to a rural location and start a fire in a field to distract first-responders away from Waseca.
LaDue, a junior at the school, said the next phase of his plan was to travel to the school, where he would detonate pressure-cooker bombs and Molotov cocktails. He allegedly detailed how he planned to set off two different pressure bombs in the schools cafeteria during second lunch period, according to the report.
He said he planned to use the firearms he would bring to the school to kill school liaison officer Jared Chrz while he helped injured students. He said he planned to kill as many students as he could while setting off pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails to catch students rushing from the building. He said his ultimate goal was for a SWAT team to kill him.
The notebook entries detail all the information he shared with police, including details of what jobs he could obtain to pay for his equipment and how to disguise bombs in boxes near drinking fountains in the cafeteria.
Waseca Public Schools Supt. Tom Lee also spoke at the press conference, calling for the media to give space to students and LaDue's parents.
Lee said LaDue was known to teachers as a shy student, but he earned good grades and had no incident on his school record.
Traci Frederick of Eagle Lake, the grandmother of a Hartley student, and Kristina Treat of Waseca, the mother of a Hartley student, both attended the press conference on Thursday.
They said they were extremely grateful that an incident was avoided, praising the response of both the school and the police.
"It was scary to know how far it had gone, how far the wheels had started to turn," Frederick said.
Josh Moniz writes for The Mankato Free Press in Mankato, Minn.