A 17-year-old Alabama high school student accused of plotting to blow up his classmates may have been influenced by the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December.
Authorities say Derek Shrout, who was released on $75,000 bail Monday and has pleaded not guilty, wrote down plans for building a bomb in a journal found by one of his teachers at Russell County High School in Seale, Ala. The teacher then handed the journal over to police.
Shrout's parents allowed police to search their home after they were told of the journal. They found empty tobacco cans with holes drilled in them that were filled with pellets, which Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor characterized as the beginning stages of a bomb.
Taylor said he believes Shrout may have been influenced by the Newtown shooting because his first journal entry about the bomb was made on Dec. 17, just three days after that attack.
Shrout's attorney, Jeremy Armstrong declined to comment on the charges Tuesday morning, but he told local paper the Ledger-Enquirer on Monday that he believes authorities are overreacting to his client's case because of the shooting in Newtown. "Our position is that our client had no intention to harm anybody," Armstrong said.
A classmate of Shrout's told the Ledger-Enquirer that Shrout's desk at school was covered in swastikas and the words "White Power." Authorities say Shrout has said he is a white supremacist and that most of his intended targets for the bomb were black students.
Copycat threats often spike after a much-publicized school shooting, and authorities made several arrests over threats in the days after the Newtown shooting.