A teenager who tried to detonate an explosive device at a Utah High School this week researched the terrorist group ISIS, police said.
The homemade explosive device was taken to Pine View High School on Monday, 5.
The St. George Police Department said that some “extremely perceptive” students alerted the school security officer of the potential bomb and a preliminary investigation indicated that the backpack had a homemade explosive device.
The school was evacuated and multiple teams of law enforcement officers disarmed the device.
“After examining the device, bomb squad members indicated that if it had detonated; the device had the potential to cause significant injury or death,” the department said in a statement.
A search warrant served at the home of the suspect uncovered a number of materials. “Based on our investigation we can confirm this was a failed attempt to detonate a homemade explosive at the school,” the department stated.
NEW: @sgcitypubsafety is charging the suspects "failed attempt to detonate a homemade explosive" inside Pine View High School yesterday with:
76-10-402: Manufacture, possession, sale, use or attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction prohibited.
? –> Jack Whalen pic.twitter.com/gJQ5Q8OZ74
— D.J. Bolerjack (@DJBolerjack) March 6, 2018
Officers found that the male “had been researching information and expressing interest in ISIS and promoting the organization,” the department said.
The suspect admitted to spraypainting “ISIS IS COMI” on the school the same morning the bomb was found, reported KUTV.
The suspect is also believed to have replaced the high school’s flag with an ISIS flag on Feb. 14, the same day that the school shooting in Florida left 17 dead, reported the Deseret News.
The juvenile male has been arrested but not identified publicly.
The suspect was charged with manufacture, possession, sale, use or attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction prohibited, the department said. More charges may come later, including charges from a Feb. 15 criminal mischief incident at Hurricane High School.
Materials found at the suspect’s home appear to link him to that incident.
Pine View High student Jack Whalen said he was one of the students who initially saw the smoking backpack and alerted the school resource officer.
“One of my friends actually went and notified the police at our school; and as he was notifying, one of the teachers walked by and I stopped this teacher and said there was a backpack that had smoke coming out of it,” he told St. George News.
However, Whalen said it took the officer a long time to evaluate the threat, with the entire lunch period going by.
“By the end of (lunch), when the fourth period had started, then they evacuated us—which kind of worried me because it took them the entire lunch period to evacuate all the students for something dangerous in the building,” he said.
The police department said the officer acted quickly, though, and thanked the officer and the program that funds officers in schools.
The department stated, “He was then able to call in appropriate teams, such as; the Washington County Bomb Squad and Jax, the bomb-detecting K-9 from Dixie Regional Medical Center, to identify and disarm the explosive device. We’d also like to say thank you to the Bomb Squad and to Jax and his handler for responding to the call out.”