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2 students in school shooting plot attempted to recruit others

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia
Published: Updated:

For about an entire week, two Southwest Florida teens spoke openly about their plans to shoot up the bullies in their middle school.

Arrest reports released for 13-year-old Conner Pruett and Phillip Byrd, 14, indicate the two Harns Marsh Middle School students were recruiting others to participate in a Columbine-style shooting.

Pruett and Byrd are spending 21 days in secure juvenile detention. A judge ordered them there on Sunday.

The investigation into the two began on Sept. 8, according to an arrest report, after a teacher overheard the students talking about a shooting.

Pruett had told students he had a gun in his backpack and during one moment he started walking toward his bookbag alarming students around him enough that they jumped out of their seats and headed toward the exit door.

school threat suspects
Credit: LCSO

The teacher told students to sit down and then she overheard the conversation and tipped off the school resource officer.

The school resource officer did not find a gun, but the investigation continued.

A witness told deputies that Pruett had said “we are going to shoot up the school, and (Byrd) is the mastermind,” according to the arrest report.

When deputies searched Byrd, they found a map of the school with red and blue dots indicating the locations of surveillance cameras.

A witness also stated the two students knew where the natural gas lines were located.

Pruett and Byrd both approached different students and asked them if they wanted to participate but they all declined.

The two teens said they “would begin shooting people while specifically targeting bullies,” during the lunch hour.

“I was terrified,” said Jasmine Boston, a parent of a Harns Marsh Middle School student. “I didn’t let her go to school.”

Boston said her daughter and other students overheard the pair talking about their plans but they didn’t think they were serious.

“And when you hear stuff like that, you have to take that into consideration because kids will do that seriously, and will hurt one of y’all. So she knows now to go and tell someone,” Boston said.

School board member Gwyn Gittens said she is glad everyone took action.

“Due to the good work of everyone involved, and the training they receive, that there were no children in danger on that day, they stopped a potential catastrophe,” Gittens said. “But what can we do better next time? If God forbid, there’s a next time.”

Boston said she hopes the school gets kids to open up about their feelings and bullies.

“You never know,” Boston said. “Some kids hold that in.”