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Sirens & Gavels

Fla. teen arrested in school bomb plot

By MITCH STACY and TAMARA LUSH,Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A year and a half before he was accused of plotting to bomb his high school, a shirtless and shoeless Jared Cano confronted police with a metal baseball bat when they came to his apartment looking for a stolen pistol, which they eventually found in his bedroom. He was 15 at the time, but already had several run-ins with police.

Cano's troubled history is outlined in police reports released after investigators uncovered what they say was a plan to attack the Tampa school that expelled him. None of the previous juvenile charges — from burglary to firearm possession — ended in a conviction.

Yet it appears that this week's bomb plot went beyond angry teenage bluster: Detectives said Cano had amassed shrapnel, plastic tubing, timing and fuse devices for pipe bombs. The attack plan investigators found on Tuesday was mapped out minute-by-minute.

Experts say the level of preparation shows how serious he was.

“Ninety-nine percent of the population who fantasize about harming someone because they are frustrated, or for whatever reason, don't actually make plans to carry it out,” said Charles A. Williams, a Drexel University psychology professor and expert on violent youth.

School safety expert Kenneth S. Trump agreed that the written plans showed a “high probability” that Cano would have carried out an attack.

“The good news is that since Columbine we still see kids coming forward to report the threats and the plots, such as in this case,” said Trump, president of Cleveland-based National School Safety and Security Services.

Tampa investigators were tipped off Tuesday that Cano was plotting to bomb Freedom High School, and they thought the information was plausible enough to search the apartment where he lived with his mother. Cano's past run-ins with the law had earned him a court-ordered curfew and a place on a police watch list.

“We've been very, very familiar with him,” police Maj. John Newman said. Police have declined to say who tipped them off.

Before this week, Cano's most recent arrest came when he was accused in March 2010 of breaking into a house and stealing a handgun, Tampa police said. According to the police report, the gun's owner — who was the grandfather of Cano's friend — said the weapon had three rounds in the clip.

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When police came to his door, Cano was holding a metal baseball bat in “an aggressive manner,” an officer later wrote in a report. Officers asked him several times to drop the bat, but he didn't — so an officer pinned him against a wall. Officials discovered the gun Cano's bedroom with the serial number scratched off, the report said.

In January 2010, Cano was considered a suspect when a neighbor's screened porch was broken into. Nothing was stolen and no charges were filed.

Before that, police caught him with a stun gun in 2008, and he was arrested in 2007 at age 13 for stealing CDs out of a car.

Cano had been expelled from Freedom High in 2010. Reports said that he was being homeschooled at the time of his arrest this week, and that his mother is a Hillsborough County schoolteacher. He once told an officer that he had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. His parents were divorced, and his father told a local newspaper that he had not seen his son for several years.

Williams said Cano's expulsion may have started to push him over the edge because it isolated him from other people. The psychologist said expelling Cano was a mistake, and that school officials or authorities should have enrolled him in a treatment program.

“The more isolated they are, the more socially castigated they are, the more they're cut off, they start to stew and their evil and sinister thoughts metastasize in their minds like a cancer,” he said. “The signs were all there. It was textbook.”

Troubling imagery spilled over to Cano's Facebook page, which included photos of him holding a machete and drinking from a bottle of malt liquor.

He lists two favorite quotes: “lessons not learned in blood are soon forgotten” and “dont trust anybody, cuz they all just wait for you to s– a brick of gold so they can take it.” He listed just 25 friends.

On his Facebook page Tuesday morning, Cano wrote: “i jut did the dumbest thing ever!” It's not clear exactly what he was referring to, but hours later officers showed up to search his mother's apartment.

Besides the bomb-making materials, officers said they also found a journal with schematic drawings of rooms inside Freedom High School and statements about Cano's intent to kill specific administrators and any students who happened to be nearby on Aug. 23. The plan was mapped out, minute-by-minute, Police Chief Jane Castor said.

Cano faces charges of possessing bomb-making materials, cultivating marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, possessing marijuana and threatening to throw, project, place or discharge a destructive device. He was being held in a juvenile lockup in Tampa. The state attorney's office will decide whether he will be charged as an adult.

Because of his expulsion, Cano likely would have been “red-flagged” as soon as he stepped on campus and probably would not have been able to pull off his plan when classes started next week, Principal Chris Farkas said. Still, Farkas was spooked about what could have happened to the school's 2,100 students.

Police also told Farkas that Cano worked alone.

After Cano was expelled from Freedom, he attended a charter school and left voluntarily in March, according to Hillsborough County schools spokeswoman Linda Cobbe. At that point, he was 16 and could have chosen to drop out. He was not registered to attend classes this upcoming school year.

Trump, the school safety expert, said that schools' violence prevention and security programs have been hindered by deep budget cuts.

Williams, the psychologist, said he hopes that Cano's case will be a wakeup call.

“I just hope people learn from this. This is like a textbook case study that I hope prevention specialists, people involved in schools and counseling and law enforcement will look at and say, 'Wow, this was really, really, really close.'


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