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Two teenage boys have been arrested in Florida for allegedly planning a Columbine-style mass shooting and bombing at a local school.
A 13-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy from Lehigh Acres, Lee County, were taken into custody last week following a police investigation into their alleged plot.
The country sheriff's office said the teens have since been charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting and will be held at a juvenile detention centre for three weeks for a mental health evaluation, according to WINK.
County Sheriff Carmine Marceno alleged the boys extensively studied the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, where 15 people died and 24 people were injured.
The teens were also accused of researching how to buy weapons on the black market and how to make pipe bombs.
The Columbine shooters had created several homemade bombs for their horrific attack on students and school staff, however they failed to detonate properly.
Authorities were alerted to the boys after a teacher was told one of the students was carrying a gun.
They dispatched officers quickly and found no firearms, however they did find a map of the school, which allegedly 'contained markings indicating the location of each of the school's interior cameras'.
When authorities executed a search warrant on the boys' homes, they allegedly found a gun and several knives.
According to The Washington Post, the boys had discussed carrying out the shooting 'during classes, in the cafeteria, and through Zoom virtual meetings'.
The mother of the 14-year-old boy charged broke down in tears when they appeared in court, saying: "He's just a little boy. He didn't think this was really serious. He didn't think they were serious."
Sheriff Marceno said during a press conference: "This could have turned disastrous. We were one second away from a Columbine here.
"I'm certain that my team of dedicated deputies and detectives acted promptly, investigated thoroughly and prevented a very violent and dangerous act from being carried out.
"This could have been the next Parkland massacre, but we stopped them in the planning stages."
Superintendent Dr. Ken Savage thanked police for their 'quick response and actions to protect our students and staff.
"As soon as students reported the potential threat, the teacher notified administrators, who immediately brought in the school resource officer," he said.
"I commend the students who came forward to report the potential threat and the quick action by our staff and SROs to prevent harm to our campus."
The middle school students were well known to police before their arrests as officers had reportedly been called to their homes more than 80 times in the past.
Featured Image Credit: Lee County Sheriff's Office/Facebook
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