Authorities in Alabama may have averted another school massacre by arresting a 17-year-old white supremacist who allegedly was building homemade bombs to target African-American students at his school.
The teen, identified by authorities as Derek Shrout, was to appear in court in Seale, Ala., today on a felony charge of attempted assault.
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor told Hatewatch today that a search of the youth's home on Friday turned up a couple dozen small tobacco cans and two larger metal containers marked "Fat Boy" and "Little Man." The names are similar to the code names "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" used for the atomic bombs dropped on Japan by the United States during World War II. All of the containers were filled with pellets and had holes drilled in them. The sheriff said other ingredients needed to complete the devices, such as black powder and fuses, were not found.
Shrout "admitted to being a white supremacist," the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported in today's editions.
"He has a lot of pent up anger towards blacks," Taylor told the newspaper. Authorities didn't immediately disclose if the suspect had ties to specific white supremacist groups or how and when he adopted his racist beliefs.
"By his own admission, he is a white supremacist, but we haven't been able to link him to any specific organization or any organization to him," the sheriff told Hatewatch.
Shrout's alleged plans were exposed when a teacher at Russell County High School, where the suspect was a student, found a journal containing "what appeared to be plans for a terroristic attack," the newspaper reported. The teacher turned the journal over to a school resource officer, who is a sheriff's deputy, and the investigation began.
Initially, the teenager claimed his journal writings were fiction, the sheriff said, but that was discounted after his cooperative parents allowed a search of their home and the improvised explosive devices were found
The sheriff said the suspect had "obviously put a lot of thought into the plan," and named a teacher and six students in his journal.
Five of the six targeted students and a high school teacher, all identified by name in the suspect's journal, are black, the sheriff told Hatewatch. The suspect also listed a sixth student, who is white, apparently in the belief he is gay, the sheriff said.
The sheriff told Hatewatch that FBI agents are now involved in the investigation and could recommend that the case be handled as a federal hate crime. That, however, is considered unlikely because the suspect is a juvenile. Alabama doesn't have a specific hate crime law, only enhancements for those convicted of felonies with racial motivation.
The explosive devices the teenager is accused of building were just "a step or two away from being ready to explode" and would have caused serious damage or injuries, the sheriff said.