FREDERICK — An 18-year-old student is in police custody after Catoctin High School officials and law enforcement were notified by one of the student's parents about a potential threat of violence at the Frederick County school.
Nichole Cevario, of Thurmont, faces charges of possession of explosive material with intent to create a destructive device and possession of incendiary material with the intent to create a destructive device, according to the Frederick County Sheriff's Office.
During a 2 p.m. news conference Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins said that he was "shocked" by the incident.
"It hits home. I actually live in Thurmont, and it's home to a lot of us. But just the fact that a young woman had this in her mind, and this way of thinking and planning out and carrying out an attack much like Columbine or Sandy Hook ... it shocks the conscience to see that someone that age could be thinking like this," Jenkins said.
Jenkins said his department is examining a diary in which Cevario detailed her plans to carry out a mass shooting. During the investigation, police recovered Cevario's journal, which outlined a detailed shooting event that she planned to execute on April 5 at Catoctin.
"It was very chilling to read it," Jenkins said after the news conference. "We've never seen anything like this in this county, and I go back 27 years."
Police said that they discovered that Cevario had been gathering items, including a shotgun and bombmaking materials, for the planned attack.
At this time, Jenkins said the motive is likely psychological. She was removed from class and transported from the school to Frederick Memorial Hospital for an emergency evaluation and remains hospitalized, according to police. Upon her release, she will be served with an outstanding warrant, Jenkins said.
"Our investigators moved very quickly to determine that removing her from the school, acting on the information they had, eliminated any threat to the school or the student body," he said.
At this time, Jenkins said, it does not appear that Cevario had any specific targets but was looking to execute a mass shooting. There has not been any evidence of bullying in Cevario's diary, he said.
Jenkins said after the news conference that it appeared Cevario had been studying previous, high-profile school shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The Frederick County Sheriff's Office began investigating Thursday, March 23, after Cevario's father notified the school. Jenkins said his department and the other agencies involved were able to thwart the event because the parent decide to alert the school.
At no time had a weapon or explosive device been brought on school property, according to police. While explosive materials were located during the investigation, The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Office of the State Fire Marshal determined that they had not been combined to actually create an explosive device, Jenkins said the intent was there. Jenkins said all items were purchased legally.
Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Bruce Bouch said the fire marshal's office was not sure if she had been planning to obtain more materials.
Information on bomb construction is readily available online, Bouch said.
"This is all simple stuff. Basic stuff. Sadly there's too much on the internet," Bouch said.
Police believe Cevario conceived the plot on her own and there were no other individuals assisting her in planning or potentially executing the plot, according to a Sheriff's Office news release. Police also interviewed Cevario's family members and friends as part of the investigation, Jenkins said.
Cevario's journal revealed that she had been planning the event for some time and had been compiling intelligence on behavior activities of the school, noting emergency procedures associated with drills conducted by school staff and obtaining intelligence on the School Resource Deputy assigned to the school, police said. She had also studied the entrances and exits of the building, Jenkins said.
"I feel based on what I read, and my investigators determined the same thing, that we felt that this was going to be carried out," he said. "There's no doubt in our minds that we averted a disaster."
The Sheriff's Office is still working to determine how long Cevario had been planning the attack, but the first entry in the journal about it was made in December 2016, Jenkins said.
"The journal was very detailed including a timeline that revealed how she was going to execute the plot and her expectations at each stage of the event," according to the news release.
During a search of Cevario's home, police recovered a shotgun with ammunition and bombmaking materials including pipes with end caps, shrapnel, fireworks, magnesium tape and fuse material.
"Investigators are confident of the intent, but are still trying to evaluate if Ms. Cevario would have had the will to execute the event, but what was clear from Ms. Cevario is she planned on dying on the date she identified in her journal," according to the news release. Police said Cevario "had the means and equipment to have caused a significant life safety event at Catoctin High School if she had followed through with the threat."
Cevario's parents continue to be cooperative in the investigation, Jenkins said. He asked that people respect their privacy.
"I want to say again, I'm extremely thankful for her parents for their actions bringing this information forward. I truly believe what they did thwarted a catastrophe at Catoctin High School," Jenkins said.
Police also noted that emergency procedures developed in cooperation with the Frederick school system worked, and that both school and law enforcement officials plan to use the "valuable information from this incident … to evaluate … and update emergency procedures, system-wide, in order to further improve on our response to critical incidents."
The Sheriff's Office continues to investigate. In addition to the Sheriff's Office, Jenkins said, the fire marshal's office, ATF, Frederick County Public Schools, Frederick County Fire and Rescue Services, and the Frederick County State's Attorney's Office are involved in the investigation.
The Catoctin High School community was informed on Thursday. This is the first time that something like this has happened in the school system, said Frederick County Public Schools spokesman Michael Doerrer.
There were additional counselors at the school for the students on Monday who will continue to be there on Tuesday, he said.
"Everything is normal. Business as usual for our students and staff," Doerrer said.
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