LADY LAKE, Fla. - Two boys were arrested Thursday on charges they were planning to carry out a Columbine-style mass shooting at a Sumter County School, deputies said.
A neighbor of one couldn’t believe the teen was involved.
“I’m shocked,” the neighbor said. “We know one of them personally.
“Just completely shocked -- not the kind of child or family that would send up red flags at all.”
Zachory Sheron, 13, and Richard Hummer, 14, were both charged with conspiracy to commit murder, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office said.
Authorities were alerted after a school resource officer heard a rumor at the school that the teens were planning the attack at The Villages Charter Middle School.
“Witnesses indicated that some students had been warned not to come to school on Friday,” a Sumter County Sheriff’s Office media release said.
When interviewed, Sheron and Hummer both said they were not being serious about the attack.
Three students who told investigators they had heard the teens discussing it did not think it was funny.
“All three students said they believed Zachary was serious and they were bothered by his statements,” a Sumter County charging affidavit said. “They did not believe he was joking at all.”
Another student told deputies that during a Holocaust Tribute, Shearon “showed up with swastikas on his hands and Nazi logos on his arms,” the affidavit said.
Sheron was stopped by an officer as he arrived at school. Investigators said the teen acknowledged conversations about the plot and referenced the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School.
During that encounter with deputies, Sheron mentioned Hummer and said he was also involved, investigators said.
“The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office is grateful for those students brave enough to speak out about the plot,” the release said. “Their heroic actions may have prevented a deadly tragedy and loss of precious life.”
The two had developed an elaborate plan which included telling friends they wanted to stay safe to wear white T-shirts and yell out the code word, “Eugene,” investigators said.
The boys planned to walk into the gym and when one dropped a pencil, it was the signal to start shooting, the sheriff’s office said.
"Of course we're concerned and we have been in contact with teachers and administration that we know personally last night and this morning,” parent Robin Carr said. “We have confidence in our school, and if there sending their kids, then we feel safe to send ours.”
Sheron was arrested by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office at his home in Fruitland Park. Hummer was arrested by the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office at his home in Wildwood.
While no guns were found in the students’ backpacks, guns were found in their homes.
The guns belonged to their parents and were not found in the teens’ rooms, officials said.
This isn't the first Columbine-style threat in Central Florida.
In 2011, police in Altamonte Springs arrested an 18-year-old man who they said was planning a Columbine-style attack at Lake Brantley High School.
Altamonte Springs police arrested and charged Emmanuel Costas with attempted murder and written threats to kill or do bodily harm, according to a report.
Detectives said that the warnings might have gone unnoticed if another student hadn't received a text from Costas and told a parent.
Watch video of Costas' 2011 court appearance below:
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