Two Georgia friends are accused of plotting a bombing at their high school in an attack that a local sheriff says could have been “another Columbine.”
Alfred Dupree and Victoria McCurley, both 17-year-old students at Etowah High School, are being charged as adults and face several charges, including attempted murder, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office says. The sheriff’s office said the arrests were made after someone tipped them off about the students plans.
“The real hero in my opinion is the initial person who made the call, made the tip,” Sheriff Frank Reynolds told reporters at a press conference. “We don’t want to take anything for granted. There’s always an opportunity that something could’ve happened, and God forbid something would have.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Say They Found Guns, a Homemade ‘Incendiary Device’ & a ‘Hit List’ of Students They Were Targeting
Police received a tip about the two students Monday night and followed up by serving search warrants at both of their homes, WSB-TV reports. Alfred Dupree lives in Acworth and Victoria McCurley lives in Woodstock. Investigators said the tipster had seen a personal journal belonging to one of the teens, which included the alleged plot and a “hit list” of students at their school that they were targeting, the news station reports.
Police said they found a homemade incendiary device and other chemicals that can be used to make an explosive when mixed together. Those materials have been sent to a state crime lab for further examination, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said.
“From my understanding, it was not anything like a Molotov cocktail. It was substances they had located. We are obviously trying to determine what those substances were,” Sergeant Marianne Kelley told reporters on Wednesday.
Police also found guns in the home where Dupree lives, and those were seized, but it is not clear if they were part of the plot.
“Most of the information we received was from the personal diary, what was written down,” Kelley told reporters. “It’s still an open investigation.”
2. McCurley Posted Several Photos on Instagram About Columbine, Including a Disney-Movie Themed ‘High School Massacre’ Poster
McCurley appeared to have an obsession with the Columbine High School shooting carried out in April 1999 by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. Fifteen people were killed in that shooting at the Colorado high school. McCurley has posted several images on her Instagram in the past year about the shooting, including a poster that you can see above. The poster is an edited version of the Disney movie “High School Musical,” with “High School Massacre” written instead and the images of the Columbine killers superimposed.
Dupree, from his Instagram account, “Holiday_Reaper,” liked the post and left a “shocked” emoji: ?.
McCurley, who used the name “Box of Anger” on Instagram, shared a photo just last week of bulletproof blankets that are being marketed as a way to shield kids during school shootings:
On October 11, she posted an image of one of the Columbine killers with the words “Outrun my gun,” a lyric from the Foster the People song “Pumped Up Kicks,” written over it.
She also posted a phot of Klebold and Harris with their faces covered with the words “Fear the Nobodies.”
She wrote in the biography section of her page, “Everything sucks and nothing matters in the chaos of an unknowable void.”
3. Dupree Posted on Instagram About Depression & the Sheriff Says ‘Mental Health Issues … May Have Been the Cause Here’
Dupree posted on his Instagram page about being depressed, using #killme in the caption of the photo. Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said they have not determined a motive yet, but mental health issues likely played a role.
“We have a lot of mental health issues and I think that may have been the cause here,” Reynolds told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Police said the two teens were friends and were not romantically involved. Other students at the school said the two teens did not have many friends, according to WSB-TV. Dupree describes another teen girl as his girlfriend on social media and McCurley had posted about being in the school’s ROTC program.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” classmate Sam Jackson told WSB-TV. “Because I knew both of those kids. They both rode my bus. They released the names today, everyone found out today, and everyone was just shocked.”
Christina Sovine, who lives near Dupree and has been close friends with him since elementary school, told Fox 5 Atlanta she saw police at his home Monday. “He likes to play video games, he’s very into video games. His entire family, his dad, stepmother and sister are all very sweet, this is really surprising,” Sovine told the news station.
4. The Sheriff’s Office’s Spokeswoman Broke Down Crying While Talking About the Seriousness of the
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sergeant Marianne Kelley became emotional and had to step aside to gather herself during a press conference Thursday about the arrests.
“The Cherokee Sheriff’s Office wants to make sure that parents and families understand that we take this very seriously,” Kelley said after returning to the microphone. “We don’t want anything to happen to students in our county, or in our community. We will do anything to protect them.”
The school’s principal, Robert Horn, sent a letter to parents about the arrests:
This is to advise that the Cherokee County School District (CCSD) Police Department and Cherokee Sheriff’s Office were notified by a community member of a potential threat on Etowah HS. Immediate action and investigation began, and, as a result, two students are currently in custody. At this time there are no other suspects and no active threat against Etowah HS.
The safety and security of all students and staff members is of utmost importance and CCSD will continue to partner with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office throughout the conclusion of the investigation to insure that this is the case. I will continue to keep you in the loop in this regard. Any threat on school safety/security will not be tolerated and as such these students will also face severe disciplinary action, as well as any applicable criminal charges.
“I am so thankful for the person who reported them,” parent Paige Post told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I can’t begin to imagine what kind of destruction could have been done.”
Long Pham, the parent of two students at Etowah High School, told WSB-TV, “The kids’ lives are over.
5. McCurley & Dupree Were Denied Bond After Appearing Before a Judge on Thursday
McCurley and Dupree appeared in court Thursday and were denied bond, Fox 5 Atlanta reports. They are being held at the Cherokee County Detention Center.
Along with attempted murder, they are both facing charges terroristic threats and acts, criminal attempt to commit arson, and possession and/or transportation of destructive device/explosive with intent to kill, injure or destroy any public building.
They are also facing disciplinary action from the school district.
“We will not tolerate violence — or threats of violence — at any of our schools,” Cherokee County schools spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said in a statement obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This stand will be reflected in the severe administrative disciplinary actions we will take against these students.”