Straight-A student's angry plans for 'Columbine III'

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By John Davis

CHESTERFIELD – "He recognized his anger."

Chesterfield Police Chief Randall Lear offered insight into the mind of Chesterfield High senior Ryan Schallenberger, 18, who was charged Saturday with plotting to detonate bombs at his school.

Lear said the young man was angry – and had planned to let the world know.

Deputies charged the high school senior Saturday after finding plans for an assault on students and teachers. Schallenberger called his plan "Columbine III," police said.

April 20 marked the ninth anniversary of the Columbine shootings in Colorado, and the timing of Schallenberger's plot was probably not a coincidence, said Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker.

Schallenberger vented anger and resentment toward his life and others in a journal and audio recordings discovered by law enforcement Saturday.

"He's very confused," Parker said. "He told us he didn't have any direction."

Parker described Schallenberger as self-motivated and independent.

"The boy wanted to make a splash and he got his splash," he said.

Schallenberger is being held on a state charge of making bomb threats, a felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison. State prosecutors planned to charge him with possession of explosive materials, a felony punishable by two to 15 years in prison.

Schallenberger is also facing federal charges.

Kevin McDonald, the acting U.S. attorney for South Carolina, said Tuesday that Schallenberger will face a federal charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a possible life sentence. He will also face two lesser federal charges.

Schallenberger's journal contained an entry made last month that had a timeline for an attack that included how he would lock his school's doors and where he would place more than five explosives in the building, Fourth Circuit Solicitor Jay Hodge said Tuesday after a court hearing for the teen.

"The kid needs help, but this is a violent offense," Hodge said. "You can't put an entire community in fear and just walk away. In this situation, society requires jail time. There's no way to excuse or forgive what he did."

Schallenberger's mother and stepfather, John and Laurie Sittley, sat behind him in the courtroom, his stepfather shielding their faces from the media with a white envelope. They have not commented publicly about the case and rushed from the courtroom after the hearing, but authorities have described them as heartbroken over the arrest. Their phone number is unlisted and their home off a dirt road about 10 miles from the school has "No Trespassing" signs posted.

Schallenberger's parents had sought help last week from mental health experts when he slammed his head into a wall, but the clinic offered no help, authorities said Monday. His parents took him to a hospital.

Schallenberger was not badly injured, though he made a 4-inch indentation in the wallboard, according to Hodge.

A spokesman for the mental health clinic would not confirm or deny any contact with Schallenberger's family, citing state law.

Resentment shown in journal entries

Schallenberger's hand-written journal dates back almost a year. Though no date was mentioned, Schallenberger wrote about a possible plot to detonate bombs at Chesterfield High that included hand-drawn school maps, Parker said.

In the journal, Schallenberger reportedly professed his admiration for the two teens who killed 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado on April 20, 1999.

Law enforcement confiscated an audiotape recorded by Schallenberger to be played after his death, Lear said.

"He didn't expect to come out of it (alive)," he said.

Schallenberger was acting alone, Parker said.

With entries dating back to 2007 until a few weeks ago, Shallenberger's writings indicated a general anger toward the world, Lear said.

He told news sources that Schallenberger resented "rich boys with good-looking girls."

Future looked bright

According to school officials, Schallenberger seemed to have a bright future.

He was a straight-A student, ranked in the top ten of his class and had been offered college scholarships.

But during the last few weeks, Schallenberger's relationship with his parents had begun to deteriorate. Last week, police said the teen ran away from home.

While he was missing, Schallenberger's parents tipped off police about a package they intercepted containing 10 pounds of ammonium nitrate pellets. The package had been shipped to their son.

"(Schallenberger's parents) were brave people and I know it couldn't have been an easy decision for them," Lear said.

A search of Schallenberger's room and personal belongings led to the discovery of recipes for bombs and news clippings related to school violence and attacks. Parker described these items as "propaganda."

"He had enough ingredients that he could put something together within minutes," said Lear, who was not willing to divulge items on Schallenberger's list in fear of inspiring a copycat.

The ammonium nitrate Schallenberger bought online is similar to what Timothy McVeigh used in the 1995 Oklahoma City, Okla., bombings, Lear said.

A family member located Schallenberger near his home Saturday morning.

Teen shadowed reporter

In November, Schallenberger participated in a job shadowing program with the Progressive Journal in Pageland after expressing interest in sports writing and photography.

As part of the program, Schallenberger took photos of eighth-grade language arts and math classes at Chesterfield-Ruby Middle School.

Schallenberger's demeanor was that of an ordinary student placed in an infield experience – nervous, but he delved into his assignment with photographs being published in a later issue.

Students stay away from school

Chesterfield High, which has 544 students, saw a 60 percent drop in attendance on Monday, said Superintendent John Williams.

The school was slated to begin statewide standardized testing Tuesday, but the district has requested a delay, Williams said.

State Law Enforcement Division agents and bomb-sniffing canines inspected buses as they arrived at Chesterfield High with students entering the building through metal detectors.

Officers searched Chesterfield High for explosive devices Saturday, but none were found, Parker said.

"We had the luxury of this happening over the weekend," Williams said.

Chesterfield is the county seat of adjacent Chesterfield County.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.