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John David LaDue is escorted to his sentencing hearing. Image courtesy of CNN.

John LaDue and the school massacre that never happened

John David LaDue had been preparing for his attack on his school for a long time. During the summer of 2013, LaDue started rehearsing for what he believed would be the worst school massacre in American history.

He began by testing explosives in trees, but he moved on to setting them off in many places throughout his small Minnesota town. The explosives were known as crickets, made out of empty CO2 canisters filled with gunpowder. Though police say many rural teens play with them, school shooting experts know their significance, with the Columbine shooters carrying dozens during their attack.

LaDue did his homework, learning from recent school shootings and other mass attacks in the United States. For his attack he planned to use two pressure cookers filled with ball bearings, buckshot and screws, using flash powder and WD-40 to intensify the blast. He planned to set off the devices between classes, as to impact the most students.

LaDue told police that he planned to use a bolt-action Soviet-style SKS rifle after setting off the devices remotely to bring more terror to the school. He had no plans of making it out alive, hoping to meet his demise in a police shootout.

LaDue’s plot was foiled on April 29, 2014, when a call was made to 911 to report that someone had broken into a storage locker. Upon investigating, police found bomb-making supplies, a confession, a diary explaining LaDue’s intent, and an entire arsenal of weapons in his room.

Ultimately, despite all of the evidence and a confession from LaDue himself, no jail time was awarded. LaDue was 17 at the time of his arrest, but prosecutors vowed to try him as an adult. He faced 12 felony charges and was looking at up to 60 years of jail time.

The LaDue family had no idea of their son’s feelings or intentions. In fact, they themselves were going to be victims of his heinous plot. John had planned to set fire to his home before carrying out the school massacre as a distraction to local emergency services.

While in prison, LaDue was diagnosed with incredibly high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. Psychologists believe that LaDue’s symptoms didn’t manifest until adolesence, and that he had managed to hide signs of his disorder from friends, family, and classmates.

Those with autism spectrum disorders are no more likely to exhibit violent behaviour than those without autism spectrum disorders. In many cases where violent behaviors are seen, there is another underlying psychological disorder.

This September, John LaDue plead guilty to a single criminal charge: illegal possession of an explosive. In a plea deal, all other criminal charges were dropped and the prosecutor and defense agreed on a sentence that would benefit both LaDue and the public.

He will receive up to 10 years of court-mandated therapy for his autism spectrum disorder, with as much therapy as possible taking place before he turns 25 and his brain is fully matured. He is to have no contact with his old school. If therapy is successful and he remains a good, law-abiding citizen, John will be moved to a halfway house and slowly integrated back into society.

LaDue earned his high school diploma while in a detention center with a GPA of 3.3. He was the valedictorian of his class of 13. LaDue aspires to go to college and study mathematics.

His next step is to be transferred to Atlanta for treatment, pending acceptance from the state of Georgia. If he meets the court’s demands, the criminal charge he was guilty of may be downgraded to a misdemeanor and be wiped from his record, giving John a second chance on life.

About Jillian Gordon

Jillian is a writer from Edmonton, Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Alberta and loves all sorts of cultural phenomena. In addition to writing, Jillian's hobbies include photography and playing roller derby.