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Md. school shooting plot uncovered after explosives, shotgun seized from student’s home

Md. school shooting plot uncovered after explosives, shotgun seized from student’s home

THURMONT, Md. — An 18-year-old Catoctin High School student will face charges this week after county sheriff’s deputies said they uncovered her plot last week to carry out a shooting at the school.

Nichole Cevario will be charged with both the possession of explosive materials with the intent to create a destructive device as well as possession of incendiary material with the intent to create a destructive device after she is released from Frederick Memorial Hospital for a mental evaluation. Cevario was the only person believed to be involved in the plot and no one else was to be charged as of Monday, according to a news release issued Monday by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

Cevario, of Thurmont, was arrested Thursday after one of her parents notified school officials of a threat to the school, Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said at a news conference Monday afternoon at the county’s law enforcement center.

“This event was very probably prevented by the parents who stepped forward,” Jenkins said. “They saw something, they said something, they came forward, they did the right thing, so I give all the credit in the world to the parents of this young lady.”

Cevario was removed from class Thursday immediately after her father notified school officials, Jenkins said.

A number of “explosive materials” — including pipes with end caps, nails to be used as shrapnel, fireworks, magnesium tape and fuse materials — were seized by deputies in a search of Cevario’s home last week, but none of those materials had been combined in any way to create a bomb, Jenkins said.

“Basically the plan was to extract the black powder from the fireworks to create the pipe bombs,” Jenkins said, adding that a Remington 870 shotgun and 12-gauge ammunition were also recovered from the house.

No weapons or explosives were recovered at the school, according to Monday’s release.

Cevario’s journal was at the center of the sheriff’s office’s ongoing investigation as of Monday, Jenkins said. From the first entry, made Dec. 16, 2016, the diary hinted at violence, but the sheriff’s office was still looking into whether any specific events prompted Cevario to begin planning the shooting, Jenkins said.

“Within this diary, we saw evidence of mental health issues, a number of emotional issues, the way she went out and found the means to purchase materials,” Jenkins said. “… It was to create, basically to be a mass shooting type event. [There were] no specific names or targets.”

The journal contained a detailed analysis of every stage of Cevario’s plan and what she expected to encounter, including information she gathered from speaking with the school resource officer assigned to the school, Jenkins said.

“It was very clear to us that she had the means and materials to cause significant damage to herself, to the student body, to the facility up there at Catoctin High School. … We felt this was going to be carried out. There was no doubt in our minds that we averted a disaster up there,” Jenkins said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, to be honest with you,” Jenkins added.

Deputies also believe Cevario was intent on dying on April 5, the date specified in her journal for the shooting to occur, Jenkins said. There was no indication as to why Cevario had chosen April 5.

Michael Doerrer, a spokesman for Frederick County Public Schools, said there was no indication, at least from the school’s staff, before her arrest that Cevario was planning to carry out violence at the school.

That said, school officials acted as soon as they received word from Cevario’s father, which occurred while classes were in session Thursday.

“We identify the location of the student, go to where the student is and then remove the student to the office,” Doerrer said, outlining the school system’s protocol for handling potential threats. “That’s where law enforcement takes over. … It’s important to us that we do that in a nondisruptive way and that’s exactly what happened here.”

Counselors and other resources were available for students and staff at Catoctin High School as of Monday morning, which is also outlined in school protocol, Doerrer said, adding that he was also at the school as of just after 11 a.m.

“It is business as usual at Catoctin High,” he said. “It’s quiet.”

The sheriff’s office’s release expressed the agency’s appreciation for the cooperation it received in the investigation from the county school system; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the state and county fire marshal’s offices; and the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office.

By Jeremy Arias
The Frederick News-Post
©2017 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)