|Page (1) of 1 - 08/18/11||email article||print page|
Police: Tampa teen accused of plotting to bomb school that expelled him had run-ins with law
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) ' Two years before he was accused of plotting to bomb his high school, 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. But they earned him a place on a police watch list, scrutiny that authorities say helped stop what could have been a devastating attack.
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. Police say the plot was intended to take more lives than the Columbine High School massacre, where 13 were slain before the two student attackers killed themselves.
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. Police had been periodically checking on the teen because of his troubled past, and he had a court-ordered curfew.
"We've been very, very familiar with him," police Maj. John Newman said.
Cano had been expelled from Freedom 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.
His most recent arrest before this week 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.
In Jan. 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, when he was 13, for stealing CDs out of a car.
Troubling imagery spilled over to his 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, and no one seemed to know him at the modest apartment complex where he lived just a few miles from the school.
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.
Police and the school system "were probably able to thwart a potentially catastrophic event, the likes of which the city of Tampa has not seen, and hopefully never will," 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, the principal who's accustomed to threats was spooked about what could have happened to the school's 2,100 students.
Police 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.
Speaking Thursday on CBS's "The Early Show," Hillsborough County Public Schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia credited the district's security efforts and its close relationship with the police department in helping foil the plot.
"I think we have to instill that responsibility of all people, all students and all parents and our teachers to be watching for the kind of characteristics they might see in someone who is planning like something like this," Elia said.
Associated Press writers Christine Armario and Kelli Kennedy contributed to this report from Miami.