Harns Marsh teacher speaks after students accused of plotting school shooting

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

A teacher spoke to us about the moment she realized she might have to prevent a school shooting. Last week, two students were arrested for planning an attack at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lehigh Acres. Deputies say they were inspired by the Columbine massacre.

Teacher Laura Davis told us she knew she could not ignore the two words “schools shooting.” She said she has reported students for making threats in the past. This recent incident is something that has kept her up at night, however.

Sept. 8, Davis was in a classroom because of a staffing shortage.

“Approximately 20 minutes before the end of the class, a student — apparently I did not hear it — made a comment to classmates that were sitting nearby and then proceeded to get out of his seat and head towards the back of the room where the students backpacks were,” Davis explained. “Students who were seated near this student got up in a bit of a panic.”

That student was 13-year-old Conner Pruett, one of the accused. Davis asked everyone what was happening, and she says Conner told her, “Nothing, miss. It was just a joke.”

Davis says something told her that was not the case.

“I went back to the front of the classroom, where a student asked me if I heard the rumor that there was going to be a school shooting,” Davis said. “That confirmed my suspicions that this young boy had not been joking about getting a gun from his backpack to shoot.”

Davis said, because of her training, she told an administrator.

When detectives went to the school and started doing interviews, they discovered another student, 14-year-old Phillip Byrd, was part of the plot to shoot at the school.

The sheriff said the two teenagers went so far as to research Columbine and even tried to buy weapons on the black market.

At the time, when Davis reported this, she didn’t think kids were in danger, but now, she’s not so sure.

“Listening on Thursday morning that the sheriff’s office had gone to the kids’ homes and stuff and after hearing his press briefing, made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” Davis said. “It was very hard to sleep.”

Davis said she understands why parents are worried, but she said, if anything, they should be relieved. She added, if you see something, say something.

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