Teen who planned school massacre: ‘I think I’m really mentally ill’
WASECA, Minn. — John David LaDue readily admits he came from a good home and says he was never bullied.
But something in him drove the 17-year-old Minnesota teen toward an obsessively detailed plot — one in which, he said, he wanted to kill his family, set off bombs at a school and then shoot students.
“I think I’m really mentally ill,” he told police. “And no one has noticed. I’ve been trying to hide it.”
Transcripts of LaDue’s police interviews were released Tuesday. They fill more than 160 pages.
And they offer, in LaDue’s own words, a chilling glimpse of a teenage boy and his homicidal thoughts — and how far he had wanted to go to act on them.
LaDue was arrested in April before he could carry out his attack. He sits in jail facing numerous charges, including attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty.
CNN does not usually publish the names of minors charged with crimes but is naming LaDue in this case, because his name has been widely reported in his community.
LaDue’s mother told police she had no idea he was allegedly plotting to kill his family.
Yet, he said, he plotted right under her nose.
He said his main target was Waseca Junior/Senior High School. But first, LaDue said, he was going to kill his father, mother and sister.
“They did nothing wrong; I just wanted as many victims as possible,” he told officers who questioned him.
He said he wanted his attack to be more effective than Adam Lanza’s shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary.
He had a lowly opinion of Lanza, because he shot small children.
“I didn’t want to be known as a guy who would go to a place with a bunch of kindergartner(s),” he told police. He thought it more honorable to kill students his own age.
After slaying his family, the teen, who idealized the Columbine school shooters, allegedly wanted to set a fire with Molotov cocktails.
The arson, however, would only be a diversion to tie up emergency responders while he carried out the main plot at the school, police said.
He’d planned to set off “numerous bombs” during the lunch hour at Waseca Junior/Senior High School, then kill the school resource officer, police said.
Then he’d unleash gunfire on students until police officers arrived. He wanted to die but thought it cowardly to turn the gun on himself the way Lanza did.
“I wanted to get taken down by the SWAT,” he told officers. “I really wanted to get out of this place.”
Luckily, a witness thwarted his plan when she saw the 17-year-old tending to a storage locker, where he kept his stash of bomb making materials.
She dialed 911.
Officers arrived to find LaDue in the locker surrounded by an assortment of gunpowder, pyrotechnic chemicals, ball bearings and a pressure cooker, police said.
LaDue asked his interviewers to let him see a psychiatrist over his state of mind.
In the eighth grade, he was a model student, whose report card was filled with top grades, he said.
A year later, his thoughts began to turn dark.
“I started having homicidal…thoughts about some people in my school,” he told officers.
He loved his chemistry class in particular and developed a fascination for explosives, which he built and tested.
Police found videos he made of himself setting off homemade explosives.
A close call
The teen’s cache in the storage locker contained just pieces of the puzzle.
Police got a search warrant in April and went to LaDue’s home, where he lived with his family.
Behind that door lay finished bombs, “numerous guns” and ammunition, police say. And they found LaDue’s neatly laid plan in a journal dozens of pages thick.
A bomb squad removed all recovered explosives and destroyed them by controlled detonation at a local airport.
They did so just in time. Everything was prepared and ready to go; LaDue was just waiting for the right moment to launch the scheme.
A lucky calendar this year may have prevented him from hatching his plan earlier — before it could be thwarted.
He had wanted to carry it out on April 20, the 15th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. But the date fell on Easter week this year, when school was out.