WASECA, Minn. — The Waseca County Attorney’s Office filed a motion Friday asking that a 17-year-old Waseca High student who allegedly planned to set off bombs and go on a killing spree at his school be charged as an adult.
John David LaDue, who police say outlined his plot in chilling detail in a 180-page journal and backed it up with a cache of guns and homemade explosives, is charged as a juvenile with four counts of attempted murder, two counts of first-degree damage to property and six counts of possession of a bomb by someone younger than 18. Adult charges against LaDue are expected at his next court appearance May 12, said Waseca County Prosecutor Brenda Miller.
The planned attack in Waseca, a city of about 9,400 people about 80 miles south of Minneapolis, was prevented this week when a citizen became suspicious and called police. When authorities responded, they say they found guns, bombs and other materials, all allegedly amassed by LaDue.
At Waseca High School, which had a staff-planning day Friday, the mood was “various levels of somber,” said Superintendent Thomas Lee.
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Lee said some teachers openly struggled, asking: “How could I have missed this?” Others walked around in stunned disbelief. Still others were “beating themselves up,” Lee said. There also was relief. “We were grateful that we avoided something,” Lee said.
He described LaDue as a “good kid” who was quiet and a B student who made the honor roll and was never in trouble at school.
Police declined to offer any new details on the investigation into the foiled plan to attack the school in homage to the Columbine High School shootings 15 years ago. It’s unknown how LaDue was able to obtain seven guns. He also had built up a stockpile of bomb-making materials, including chemicals, other materials and 60 pounds of ball bearings.
According to charges filed Thursday, LaDue told police he planned to kill his mother, father and sister and then create a diversion to keep first responders busy while he went to Waseca Junior/Senior High School to wreak havoc.
After his arrest late Tuesday, the high-school junior said he intended to kill “as many students as he could” before being killed by the SWAT team, according to charging documents filed in Waseca County District Court.
Parents were shaken as they began to hear details of LaDue’s plot at a police news conference Friday. “It’s just too scary to put in words,” said a parent who has kids in Waseca’s middle school and high school but asked that her name not be used. “Everybody in town feels sick to their stomach.”
Police Capt. Kris Markeson said he thinks LaDue would have carried out his plot “just because of the amount of preparation and thought he put into this.”
LaDue had planned and practiced for 10 months, refining the chemicals in his bombs to try to find a more lethal combination, police say. He set off “practice bombs” at an elementary-school playground, at a church and softball fields. Some of those bombs were found in March, raising concerns.
The criminal complaint said LaDue told police he originally planned the attack for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre that killed 13 people in Littleton, Colo., in 1999. But it turned out that day was Easter Sunday and there was no school.
Markeson said police think the attack would have happened “within the next few weeks” if it hadn’t been for a person who grew suspicious after she saw a tall boy wearing a backpack open a storage unit, go inside and close the door. She called 911.
According to the complaint, three Waseca officers were sent to the storage facility, where they arrested LaDue.