A 16-year-old student who police say wanted to kill people at his arts high school in Towson was charged as an adult Monday after homemade explosive devices and a gun were found in his Monkton home.
The arrest, which comes two years after a shooting at Perry Hall High School, shocked parents and students at the George Washington Carver Center for the Arts and Technology, a school known for its inclusive and accepting culture.
Baltimore County police said they found three crude, homemade explosive devices, materials to make more and a gun at the home of sophomore Sash Alexander Nemphos, who lives in the 600 block of Quiet Oaks Lane. The teen faces adult charges that include possession of a destructive device, theft and a handgun violation.
Authorities say Nemphos was a suspect in vehicle break-ins that occurred Saturday on York Road in Monkton. When an officer interviewed him, police said, he learned the teen planned to go to the school with a gun and explosives to kill people.
Attempts to reach Nemphos' family Monday for comment were unsuccessful. No attorney was listed for him in online court records.
"I think a majority of the students are shell-shocked right now," said Ron Anahaw, a 17-year-old senior studying literary arts at Carver. Students, he said, are trying to cope with the idea that a classmate would want to hurt people at the school.
The culture of the school, with its diversity of artists, writers and musicians, places value on each person, he said.
"It is recognized that every individual in the school is worth something, and is a person and is as important as anyone else in the community," he said. "No one is ever put down in the school."
Students and faculty are supportive and don't want people to fail, he added. "Because there is such a diversity of talent, it is strange that anyone would want to defeat all that," Anahaw said.
A Baltimore County school administrator said there were no "red flags" that would have alerted school staff that they should have given more attention to Nemphos.
"At this point, nothing has been shared with us [from the school] to give us any indication that this could have happened," said Maria Lowry, the administrator in charge of Baltimore County high schools. "We had no reason to suspect we had an issue."
Carver parent Candace Osunsade said the incident is unnerving because the school does so much to prevent the alienation and bullying that are often cited as factors contributing to school violence.
"I'm shocked that something like this could even happen at Carver, where everyone is so accepting of each other," said Osunsade, whose daughter is a senior at the school.
She said the school does not elect a prom king or prom queen because "that creates a dynamic where somebody feels left out," and students aren't allowed to sit by themselves in the cafeteria.
"If someone is by themselves, you are to include them," she said. "It's a very unique environment for a high school."
Police routinely investigate threats of violence, such as alarming posts on Facebook, county police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said. But she said this case was different.
"This case is concerning because it's clear that this young man had been constructing a plan, and he did have means to carry out an act of violence," she said.
The investigation began late Saturday afternoon when an officer from the Cockeysville Precinct was dispatched to the 16900 block of York Road to look into reported car break-ins.
"This officer had absolutely no idea at the time that he was investigating anything other than a series of auto break-ins," Armacost said. "In this case, we had a police officer who went above and beyond investigating a rather routine crime."
After interviewing victims and witnesses, the officer identified the boy as a suspect and went to his family's home.
"In the course of interviewing this young man, the boy broke down and told him about these plans," Armacost said. "He showed the officer the gun. He showed him the explosive devices."
She would not elaborate on what materials were used to make the devices, citing the continuing investigation. She said Nemphos stole the gun from his father's place of business.
No one answered the door Monday night at the house, tucked away on a quiet, wooded street in Monkton. The lights were off and no cars were parked in the driveway between a garage and a basketball hoop.
The teen's alleged plan to kill people at the arts school comes two years after a student shot and wounded a fellow student at Perry Hall High on the first day of school.
After the Perry Hall shooting, all school doors were ordered locked and visitors must now be buzzed in through the front door and hand over identification, such as a driver's license, to the front office staff.
In addition, the school system installed cameras in all elementary schools.
This year, the school system introduced a card identification system that is being phased in at schools around the county. Every student has a card that they eventually will swipe to gain access to buildings and will take their attendance.
But those measures largely help prevent outsiders from entering school buildings. Safety experts have said that identifying students who feel alienated or have mental health problems is also important.
Baltimore County Superintendent Dallas Dance has added 10 guidance counselors to the elementary schools in the past two years.
Lowry said teachers and administrators always worry about whether they have done enough to identify and help students struggling with problems. She said teachers try to be vigilant about getting the word out to students that if they see something that worries them, they should inform an adult at the school.
"That is a puzzle that we think about every day," she said.
Additional counselors will be available to staff and students Wednesday when Carver reopens after being closed for Election Day on Tuesday.
Carver is one of the county's top-performing schools and is considered a premier arts school, consistently producing top national award winners in the arts. Students tend to go on to prestigious arts colleges and universities.
Sandy Gold Raynes and her daughter, junior Maya Raynes, both said they believe the school tries to help develop a sense within students that they should respect each other and the art they produce.
Students are to be accepted for their differences, from political views to sexual orientation, Maya Raynes said. She added that students feel a lot of pressure to work hard on their art and on academics.
"It is a challenging environment, and there is a lot expected," her mother said.
Sandy Gold Raynes said only a handful of parents showed up last year at a mental health training session held at the school to help parents understand warning signs and give them ideas about where to seek help.
Carver Center parents were notified by email and phone Monday that the student was charged. School already had let out for early dismissal Monday when the Police Department announced the arrest.
Nemphos was initially charged as a juvenile. He is being held at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, a detention center for male youths.
Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.
Due to incorrect information provided by the Baltimore County police, an earlier version of this story misstated where Nemphos is being held. It has been corrected here.