PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — A 15-year-old who allegedly planned to attack Paw Paw High School but then changed his mind could be tried as an adult.
“He came to us and said that he’s been really upset and said that he’s been planning to do something bad,” the boy’s stepfather told 24 Hour News 8 Monday. “It was a big shock.”
The 15-year-old Paw Paw High School student, who 24 Hour News 8 is not identifying because he is a minor, was arraigned Monday afternoon on eight criminal charges:
- Two felony counts of larceny of firearms
- Two felony counts of possession of a short-barreled shotgun or rifle
- Two felony counts of felony firearm
- A felony count of attempted manufacture of explosives
- A misdemeanor count of possession of a Molotov cocktail explosive device
The teen’s parents told 24 Hour News 8 he had been bullied since coming to the district last year, and that things got worse after a photo of the teen in his underwear taken last summer somehow began to circulate among his fellow students.
“Since that point, it’s just been relentless,” the stepfather said.
The stepfather said bullies “shoved him into lockers, punched him in the throat (and) knocked him down with no remorse.”
He said the teen approached his parents early Sunday, obviously distraught. He told them he had stolen guns from his grandfather and cut them down they would fit into a bag, and that he had planned to kill the students who had hurt him.
“He wanted to blow the school up on top of him,” the stepfather said. “I was in shock. I just couldn’t believe it. … We couldn’t think at that point. How’d this even get to this point?”
After their son came to them, they took him to the sheriff’s department.
“He wanted to go. He knew that he needed help,” the stepfather said. “He walked right into the lobby and was like, ‘This is what I’ve been planning on doing.’ He said, ‘This is where you can find everything.'”
“These parents did a good job and I hope the public sees that,” Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel Abbott told 24 Hour News 8.
He said authorities found Molotov cocktails and materials to make pipe bombs in the teen’s home. They also found two guns and ammunition.
An officer who testified during the arraignment hearing said the student experimented with bombs and fuses. The officer added the student had a hit list and a detailed plan to keep his siblings home so they would be safe during the attack.
Abbott said it was a “very” close call.
“I think it was going to happen (Monday) morning,” he said. “There’s no question in my mind there was going to be a terrorist act today. The guns were going to go inside a school along with the bombs and it was going to be a bad environment today.”
Paw Paw Public Schools called off Monday classes due to the threat. Authorities wanted to make sure the teen was acting alone. Investigators searched the high school and determined it was safe, and deputies say there is no ongoing threat. School is expected to resume Tuesday.
With the officer who testified saying he believes the teen is a threat to the community, he remains held in the Allegan County Juvenile Center.
Prosecutors want to try him as an adult. A decision on that will be made at a March 29 hearing. Police who interviewed the 15-year-old said he should be designated an adult because of the seriousness of the offense.
His family and the sheriff say they hope he gets the help he needs.
“He asked for help. He’s been asking for help,” his stepfather said. “I’m really worried that he might be made an example of.”
—24 Hour News 8’s Brady Gillum contributed to this report.