PHENIX CITY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama teenager who called himself a white supremacist is accused of plotting to attack classmates and a teacher with small homemade explosives, though his attorney argues the allegations are blown out of proportion and the teen never intended to hurt anyone.
Derek Shrout, 17, is charged with attempted assault after authorities say he planned to use homemade explosives to attack fellow students at Russell County High School in eastern Alabama.
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor told The Associated Press he believed the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was a factor because the first date in the boy's journal describing the plan was Dec. 17 — three days after the Connecticut killings, where a gunman killed 20 young children and six adults.
Taylor said the boy told investigators he's a white supremacist and five of the six students he named in his journal are black. The journal was found by a teacher, who turned it over to authorities.
His attorney, Jeremy Armstrong, declined to discuss specifics of the case, but he did say the publicity around the case so far was "blown a little out of proportion."
"Our position is that our client had no intention to harm anybody," he said.
A search of Shrout's home found several small tobacco cans and two large cans, all with holes drilled in them and containing pellets. Taylor said all they needed were black powder and fuses to become explosives. The journal also allegedly mentioned using firearms. The sheriff said Shrout's father owned a few household weapons, like a hunting rifle, a shotgun and a handgun.
"He just talks about some students, he specifically named six students and one faculty member and he talked about weapons and the amounts of ammunition for each weapon that he would use if he attacked the school," Taylor said.
The sheriff said he didn't believe the teen's initial claim that the journal was a work of fiction.
"When you go to his house and you start finding the actual devices that he talked about being made, no, it's not fiction anymore," Taylor said. "Those devices were — all they needed was the black powder and the fuse — he had put a lot of time and thought into that."
The teen, who is thin and wears glasses, said little during an initial court appearance Monday. District Judge David Johnson set bond at $75,000. Authorities said the family posted bond Monday night to secure the teen's release.
The judge ordered the teen not to contact anyone at his school, students or teachers, and not to use the Internet without parental supervision. He also must wear an ankle monitoring device.
Some of Shrout's classmates confirmed his interest in white supremacy.
David Kelly, the senior class president, told WTVM-TV that he was Shrout's battalion commander in JROTC.
"At first through JROTC, he was confident, well-rounded, but as time went by, he was doing the whole white power thing," Kelly told the station.
Another JROTC classmate, David White, said Shrout's involvement grew deeper in his short time at the school.
"I saw that he was taking it more serious than anything, he started getting real deep into it, and he had a little group of people doing it with him. So, I thought it was getting to where I shouldn't be around it, so I started not even hanging out with him for a long time," White said.
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(Photo: Joe Paull/Columbus Ledger-Inquirer/AP Photo)