Joshua Alexander O’Connor during a court appearance. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)

Joshua Alexander O’Connor during a court appearance. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)

Alleged plotter of high school shooting pleads not guilty

He was charged with attempted murder, robbery and illegal possession of an explosive device.

EVERETT — An Everett teen accused of planning the mass murder of his classmates pleaded not guilty Monday to three felonies.

Joshua Alexander O’Connor, 18, entered the pleas just hours after a deputy prosecutor filed court papers that said he spent the day at school Jan. 26 costumed as one of the shooters from the 1999 attack at Columbine High School.

O’Connor chose to spend the day pretending to be Eric Harris as his final assignment in an acting class, deputy prosecutor Andrew Alsdorf said in documents filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.

That was a bit under three weeks before O’Connor was arrested for allegedly planning a mid-April attack at ACES High School. The teen reportedly wanted the massacre to coincide with the anniversary of the Columbine killings in Colorado.

It also came a day after O’Connor wrote in his journal about visiting an area gun shop to special order a Hi-Point 9mm carbine rifle, a style of weapon used by the Columbine shooters, court papers say.

“I hate everyone,” O’Connor reportedly wrote in his journal Jan. 31, five days after his attending school dressed up as a Columbine shooter. “Murder is running through my mind more than ever. I can’t wait to blow some kids up, light some kids on fire, and shoot peers at point blank. No (expletive) mercy; I’ll stab any that haven’t died from my hollow points.”

The entry concludes “REDRUM,” or murder spelled backward, underlined three times. Police say he wrote “redrum” on gun range targets, too.

O’Connor is now charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and illegal possession of an explosive device. He remained at the county jail in Everett, his bail set at $5 million.

Rachel Forde, O’Connor’s public defender, on Monday urged Judge Ellen Fair to delay her client’s arraignment so that he could appear in court in civilian clothes instead of a jail uniform and restraints. The case has attracted national attention and she is concerned about O’Connor’s ability to get a fair trial, she told the judge.

Fair declined to delay or reschedule the hearing, in part because she’d received insufficient notice.

Purchasing the carbine rifle was among the acts that demonstrate O’Connor was premeditating mass murder, Alsdorf wrote. The defendant knew the firearm was “ideally-suited for the purpose he intended to use it — killing as many students as possible,” the prosecutor wrote.

O’Connor’s other alleged overt acts include using the carbine to rob a convenience store Feb. 12, as part of a plan to raise money to buy more guns and ammunition, and possessing an explosive device for use in the school attack.

Along with the charging papers, the prosecutor filed a 19-page affidavit describing the investigation as “active, ongoing and not yet complete.” Among other things, detectives are working to resolve whether the school-shooting plan may have involved anyone else, Alsdorf wrote.

The prosecutor on Friday said that O’Connor had gone to school costumed as a Columbine shooter for an assignment in his acting class in January 2017. On Monday, he filed an amended affidavit that says the incident actually happened this past Jan. 26.

A photograph obtained by police shows the teen at ACES in a white T-shirt similar to one that a Columbine shooter wore during the killings, Alsdorf wrote. The shirt features the message “natural selection,” although O’Connor apparently misspelled the first word, documents say. The Columbine mass killer wore a white T-shirt with a similar message.

O’Connor was arrested Feb. 13 at school after his grandmother, 68, contacted police to report that she’d found entries in his journal detailing plans to kill classmates. Her search of his room at their home also turned up the military-style rifle in a guitar case and apparent explosives.

Trial is now scheduled for late April.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@herald Twitter: @snorthnews.

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