‘It was a BB gun’: Parents speak out after Florida boy arrested in school shooting plot that was ‘the next Parkland’

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LEHIGH ACRES, FL – Two juvenile suspects were arrested earlier in September after authorities say that the two were plotting a mass shooting at their middle school.

Yet, the parents of one of the suspects are defending their son – claiming that the gun found by authorities in his room was a “BB gun”.

Lee County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 13-year-old Connor Pruett and 14-year-old Phillip Byrd on September 9th, after authorities say that the two were planning to conduct a school shooting at Harns Marsh Middle School, where both of the suspects attend.

An arrest report alleges that the two were planning to inflict as much harm as possible before taking both of their lives and were also allegedly trying to recruit other students to join in on the allegedly plotted massacre.

Witnesses told investigators that the two discussed carrying out the shooting at the school between September 1st and September 8th. These discussions reportedly took place in class, at the cafeteria, and in Zoom meetings.

During one of the instance where Byrd and Pruett allegedly discussed their plans, Byrd pulled out a map of the school during lunch which had red and yellow dots and explained to another student that the red dots were “gas chambers” that would go off as a distraction before the two would enter the cafeteria and begin shooting people, primarily bullies.

One of the witnesses told investigators that 13-year-old Pruitt proclaimed that Byrd was the “mastermind” of the alleged plot.

Officials say that they were tipped off about the alleged plot after a teacher informed a school resource about concerns that one of the two juveniles had brought a gun to school.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno stated in a press conference after the teens’ arrests that the SRO didn’t find a gun in the child’s bookbag – but did find a map of the school that laid out where security cameras were placed.

It was the discovery of this map that led detectives to further investigate the alleged plot, where a search of the two suspects’ homes turned up some concerning evidence – specifically in 14-year-old Byrd’s room.

Sheriff Marceno said and also showed pictures of the likes of several knives, firearms, and what appeared to be spent shotgun shell casings collected by deputies from the child’s home.

Both of the juveniles also reportedly had an obsession with the 1999 Columbine massacre and were trying to figure out how to construct pipe bombs and acquire weapons on the “black market”.

Sheriff Marceno described the situation as having avoided the “next Parkland”:

“This could’ve been the next Parkland massacre. We were one second away from a Columbine here. I’m certain that my team of dedicated deputies and detectives acted promptly, investigated thoroughly, and prevented a very violent and dangerous act from being carried out.”

Yet Byrd’s parents, Christopher and Carrie Tuller, claim that their son wouldn’t actually do something like a school shooting, with the boy’s father adding that the rifle seized from his son’s room was a “BB gun”:

“The rifle they took out of here, it wasn’t a rifle. It was a BB gun.”

The sheriff’s office hasn’t come forward with any comment on whether the firearms seized were genuine or merely some iteration of pellet/BB guns – but some of the photos of the firearms that the sheriff’s office seized do look as though they could be.

Both of the juveniles underwent a psychological evaluation and were later sent to juvenile detention facility on September 11th. On September 12th, both Pruett and Byrd had their first court appearance and were given 21 days in a juvenile detention center.

No other additional information has been made available about the two juvenile’s sentencing.

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Two suspects arrested in connection with murder of 3-year-old boy after firing off 150 rounds

(Originally published September 14th, 2021)

CHARLOTTE, NC – Police have made two arrests in connection with an shooting incident that occurred earlier in September that involved several suspects opening fire on a house, firing off roughly 150 rounds, which led to a 3-year-old boy being killed.

During the evening of September 7th at approximately at 11:45 p.m., Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say that two vehicles pulled up to a home off of Richard Rozzelle Drive, with multiple people exiting both of the vehicles.

The suspects who exited the vehicle then started firing into the home, where police say 11 people were inside of at the time, letting out roughly 150 rounds before driving off. During the gunfire, 3-year-old Asiah Figueroa was shot and killed, and his 4-year-old sister suffered a graze wound.

Asiah’s grandmother, Susie Whitley, was home during the shooting, saying she was just about to go to sleep when the gunshots started ringing out. She said that when she went into the young child’s room, she was greeted by her other grandson who was holding Asiah’s body:

“When I went into his room, my grandson was in there, was holding him and he said, ‘Grandma, I think he’s gone.’ I didn’t want to believe it.”

A security camera from across the street captured footage of the shooting incident, which the gunfire lasted approximately 10-11 seconds before the two vehicles sped off.

Investigators believe that the shooting is somehow connected to two other homicide investigations, which CMPD Captain Joel McNelly said may have some sort of connection to high school students between three local high schools:

“We believe that these tragic events stemmed from some simple disputes. What started out as teenage dispute games, has turned into a deadly game that’s now taken two lives.”

So far, police have made two arrests in connection with the fatal shooting of Asiah.

On September 8th, police arrested 21-year-old Qua’Tonio Stephens and he has since charged Stephens with accessory after the fact to murder, felony flee to elude, seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, and three counts of shooting into an occupied dwelling.

The felony flee to elude charge came from when police attempted to pull Stephens over on September 8th, which police say that Stephen failed to pull over and a brief pursuit ensued until police were able to successfully take him into custody on Interstate 85 near Glenwood Drive.

The second suspect arrested in the case was identified as 21-year-old Jacob Lanier, which he has been charged with murder, eight counts of attempted murder, nine counts of shooting into an occupied dwelling and conspiracy to commit murder.

Police are still actively investigating the case and more suspects are likely being sought as investigators aren’t certain as to exactly how many people were involved in the shooting.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call 704-432-TIPS and speak directly to a Homicide Unit detective. Detective Dollar is the lead detective assigned to this case.

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Juvenile crime explosion: Police arrest 16-year-old who shot officer in the head during a carjacking

(Originally published August 24th, 2021)

PHILADELPHIA, PA – A Philadelphia Police officer was injured by a graze wound to the head earlier in August while investigating a reported carjacking in the area of North Philadelphia.

The officer is expected to fully recover, and a juvenile suspect has been arrested in connection with the shooting. 

Authorities say on August 23rd at approximately 8:00 p.m., officers responded to a reported carjacking that reportedly transpired along the 2500 block of Aramingo Avenue. The victim of the carjacking had tracked her vehicle to 2300 block North Reese Street, which is where police arrived to search for the vehicle.

Yet as soon as the officers arrived on the scene, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw Said they immediately came under fire:

“When they responded to what they believed was…the victim’s vehicle, without warning the officers were actually shot at.”

One witness, Jalen Reynolds, described the sounds of the gunfire going off during the incident:

“Out of nowhere I heard like seven to eight gunshots consistently, and I was kind of like trying to decide if they were firecrackers or not. But it obviously wasn’t firecrackers.”

Officials believe that as many as two suspects were involved in the shooting, firing as many as 16 rounds before fleeing the area on foot. Commissioner Outlaw noted that a 28-year-old male officer with the 24th Police District suffered a graze wound to the head during the shooting.

Authorities say that no other officers were injured during the incident, with Commissioner Outlaw saying that the injured officer is doing well:

“He’s in great spirits, and again, glad to know that that he’s okay. What’s most troubling is not just someone was emboldened enough to shoot at a police officer, but someone was emboldened enough to shoot at a fully uniformed police officer and several marked units.”

Commissioner Outlaw is still taken aback by the brazenness of the crime, adding:

“So this wasn’t a question of were they sure of who they were. They knew that we were engaged in some form of an enforcement action. And they took this very brazen and very disrespectful, quite frankly, action by shooting at us and again we’re very fortunate that this officer is going to be okay.”

The unnamed officer who was injured during the incident was released from the hospital during the evening of August 23rd. He has reportedly been with the department for four years and is the son of a described “longtime homicide detective”.

Authorities arrested a 16-year-old male in connection with the shooting, which the unnamed juvenile is facing an attempted murder charge in connection with the shooting. No additional details have been released regarding the incident and investigation.

Please follow Law Enforcement Today as we continue to gather further insight into this developing case.

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