The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department said Friday that it arrested a 13-year-old boy for allegedly threatening to carry out a mass shooting at his middle school. Deputies found an unregistered AR-15 rifle, ammunition, and list of students and teachers' names at his home.
The student attends Ánimo Mae Jemison Charter Middle School in Willowbrook, in South Los Angeles. The boy allegedly planned to attack the campus on Friday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a news conference.
The boy told several students he was going to shoot them, and the students then told their teacher about the threats, Villanueva said. The teachers alerted the administration, which immediately contacted the sheriff's department.
"In this case, the fact that people stepped forward and said what they heard led us to be able to stop a tragedy today," Villanueva said.
Deputies searched the teen's home, where they found a rifle with a high-capacity magazine, about 100 rounds of ammunition, and a "rudimentary hand-drawn map of the school as well as a list containing names of both students and staff members from the school," the sheriff said.
Authorities also arrested an adult relative of the student on suspicion of making criminal threats, though they did not explain how the family member was involved.
The weapon is unregistered and Villanueva said the department is "trying to find the origin of it." It has a serial number.
"It does not appear to be a 'ghost gun,'" the sheriff said, a term used to describe a self-assembled, unregistered, and thus untraceable firearm. The teen who killed two students at Saugus High School last week used this type of "kit" gun.
The sheriff also noted that this threat does not appear to be a copy cat–style attack and said that, to his knowledge, the middle schooler did not mention any other shootings as inspiration.
On the same day, about 80 miles north, another teen allegedly threatened to shoot classmates at Knight High School in Palmdale.
After getting suspended for his involvement in a fight on campus, the student posted a picture of another teen holding a firearm and bullets on social media and wrote "threatening quotes" and other menacing messages online, Villanueva said.
Deputies investigated and, during his interview, the student admitted to making the threats. They then arrested him for making criminal threats and he was transported to Sylmar Juvenile Hall.
While the two incidents are "totally separate," the sheriff acknowledged the sobering coincidence that two students threatened to attack their schools on the same day and were both subsequently arrested for their actions.
The planned shootings are part of a "series of threats" that have been made against LA County schools since the Saugus shooting on Nov. 14, Villanueva said.
In almost two weeks, the department has looked into 36 school-related threats, a sheriff's spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. All were found to be "noncredible."
"We have acted on all of [the threats] and thoroughly assessed them," he said, adding that, thankfully, "none of them happened."