Minnesota teen who planned school shooting may be struggling with a mental illness

In late March, snow melted around two explosive devices on a playground in Waseca, Minnesota. According to KARE 11, a detonated device was found inside a stuffed toy just a few days later. Then in April, a neighbor called law enforcement because a teenager kept going in and out of a storage unit. The 17-year-old from Waseca had amassed guns, explosives and ammunition in the storage locker. He calmly told investigators during an interview that not only did he plan on killing his family, but he also wanted to lead a mass shooting at a local junior and senior high school.

He then admitted to authorities that he thought he suffered from a mental illness. While some people may be shocked over that claim, research has shown that there is a connection between school shooters and mental illness.

The plan

Law enforcement reported that the Waseca teenager had planned to kill his family inside their home. He then intended to start a number of fires to distract first responders so he could head to the school, where he would set off bombs during lunch and shoot staff and students. The teenager said he wanted to die that day with the hopes that law enforcement would have to shoot and kill him.

In addition to criminal charges that include four counts of attempted first-degree murder, the teen has been charged with two counts of first-degree criminal damage to property and six counts of possessing explosive devices.

Struggling with mental health issues

The teen told investigators that no one noticed that he has a mental illness. His mother told law enforcement that she was shocked about the school shooting plot and she previously had no concerns regarding her son. A 2012 report released by the National School Board Association states that roughly 18 percent of adolescents have some type of mental health disorder, including 5 percent of children who are classified as being severely emotionally disturbed.

The teenager told law enforcement that he no longer wanted to live. According to the FBI, symptoms of depression are common among students who commit a school shooting. That could include having a dark outlook on life, losing interest in activities the person once enjoyed or lethargy.

Getting necessary help 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is imperative that people with mental illness get help from the community of people surrounding them. Teachers, friends and parents all play a role in spotting the signs of mental illness.

Upon recognizing the signs of mental illness, people should get their loved ones the help they need. Incarcerating people with mental health problems does not help them rehabilitate. Instead, they should be placed in an institution where they can receive the necessary treatment in order to lead productive lives in society.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.