The 14-year-old boy charged with killing three classmates after a prayer meeting told investigators he had seen it done before in a movie that features a teenager dreaming about gunning down students in a Catholic high school, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Michael Carneal acknowledged to investigators that he had seen “The Basketball Diaries,” a 1995 movie in which the main character dreams about breaking down a classroom door and methodically shooting five classmates while other students cheer.
Then he corners his teacher behind a desk and aims the gun. The dream ends when he pulls the trigger.
After Monday’s shooting, Principal Bill Bond said Carneal told a teacher who watched him until police arrived: “It was like I was in a dream, and I woke up.”
Carneal then made a passing reference to the movie under questioning by investigators.
“They asked him had he ever seen this before, ever seen anything done like this, and he said, ‘Yes, I have seen this done in ‘Basketball Diaries,”’ Commonwealth’s Attorney Timothy Kaltenbach said.
Steve Elzer, vice president of publicity for New Line Cinema, which released the movie, said the studio had no comment. The movie starred Leonardo DiCaprio as a New York high school basketball star who gets hooked on heroin and takes to the streets. It was based on a book by poet and singer Jim Carroll.
In 1994 in Paducah, four teenagers inspired by the movie “Menace II Society” killed one teen in a car and shot another as they forced a second car off the road.
Carneal told investigators he talked with friends about taking control of his school and shooting students as long ago as a year.
“He had talked at school with one or more others about committing a crime like this before,” Kaltenbach said. “There was talk about shootings at school or taking over the school and shooting.”
Sheriff Frank Augustus said Wednesday he had a “gut feeling” the shooter didn’t act alone. He questioned why the boy brought to the school a pistol, two rifles, two shotguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition believed stolen from a neighbor’s garage.
The shootings at Heath High School occurred Monday as a group of students gathered in a hallway finished an informal prayer meeting before classes. Three girls were killed and five other students were wounded, including one who is paralyzed from the waist down.
Carneal remains in an unidentified juvenile detention center in another part of Kentucky. Kaltenbach said he will seek the maximum penalty, life without the possibility of parole for 25 years, when the case is transferred to adult court.