Alva Review-Courier -

FBI: Instagram messages show teen planned school shooting


February 15, 2018

ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) — A teen charged with killing a first grader in a South Carolina school shooting targeted his old elementary school because he knew a police officer wouldn't be there, an FBI agent who uncovered his social media messages said.

The teen also told his Instagram friends he was going to kill his father so he could get the keys to his truck and drive to Townville Elementary School, according to the messages .

News outlets said FBI agent Shandal Ewing showed a judge the messages Tuesday during a hearing to determine if the boy will be tried as an adult on murder charges for killing his father and a first-grader at the school in September 2016 just weeks after his 14th birthday.

The teen's lawyers are asking witnesses questions such as whether they knew the teen's father threatened to kill his pet bunny or knew that the teen felt like he was bullied throughout his school life.

The FBI agent showed messages starting about a week before the shooting. The teen bounced ideas off his Instagram friends, wondering if he should go to his old elementary school or the middle school he was suspended from after bringing an ax and hatchet to school because he said he was bullied.

"The middle school has tons of cops," the teen wrote six days before the shooting. "The elementary school doesnt."

He laid out his plan to his friends five days before the shooting and later typed that he would probably kill 50 to 60 people at the school and "if I get lucky maybe 150."

The night before the shooting, the teen wrote "IM GONNA PUT A (expletive) BULLET IN HIS HEAD TONIGHT" and that morning, he wrote "Im waiting for my dad to ride home from his farm."

The teen told his friends online he killed his father, but the time stamps on the messages were a few hours before when investigators think the killings happened. Several people responded asking for proof.

Later Wednesday, a clinical psychologist testified that she thinks the teen can be rehabilitated, but she has no idea how long that might take.

The teen said he is sorry for the killings, but does not show outward signs of remorse and doesn't seem to grasp the seriousness of the crimes he is charged with, Dr. Danielle Atkinson said.

Authorities said the teen shot his father three times as he sat on the sofa, then called his grandfather in a panic as he drove to the school.

The teen drove the truck into the playground fence at Townville Elementary School and fired four shots, police said.

The gun jammed each time because he loaded the wrong ammunition, and the teen said he suddenly worried he was going to go to hell, dropped the gun, didn't try to get inside the building and started crying and screaming, according to testimony and his confession to investigators introduced earlier in the hearing.

Jacob Hall, 6, was shot in the leg and bled to death. A teacher was wounded in the shoulder and another student was hurt, but both survived.

Prosecutors want the teen tried as an adult, where he could face decades in prison if convicted. His attorneys want him tried as a juvenile, where he could be held only until his 21st birthday if found guilty.

The Associated Press is not using the defendant's name while he remains in the juvenile court system.

The hearing may last the rest of the week.


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