Joshua Alexander O’Connor, 18, during a court appearance. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)

Joshua Alexander O’Connor, 18, during a court appearance. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)

Thwarted shooter went to school costumed as Columbine killer

Joshua Alexander O’Connor allegedly planned to carry out a similar attack here.

This story has been modified to reflect revised information from prosecutors that Joshua Alexander O’Connor dressed as a Columbine shooter in January 2018, not 2017.

EVERETT — An Everett teen accused of planning the mid-April massacre of his classmates spent a day at his high school earlier this year dressed up as one of the shooters from the 1999 attack at Columbine High School, according to court papers filed Friday.

Joshua Alexander O’Connor, 18, chose to go to school costumed as mass murderer Eric Harris as part of his final assignment in an acting class in January, deputy prosecutor Andrew Alsdorf said in documents filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.

A photograph obtained by police shows O’Connor at ACES High School in a white T-shirt similar to one that Harris wore during the killings, Alsdorf wrote. In an apparent homage to the school shooter, the shirt features the message “natural selection,” although O’Connor apparently misspelled the first word, documents say.

Alsdorf on Friday charged O’Connor with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and illegal possession of an explosive device.

Along with the charges he filed a 19-page affidavit offering details about the teen’s fascination with the Columbine killings and his alleged plans to carry out a similar attack here to coincide with its anniversary.

“The police investigation has revealed that the defendant did more than just plan, think and write about his crime; he took at least three actions which, under the law, are substantial steps toward premeditated mass murder,” Alsdorf wrote. He said those include:

• Purchasing a Hi-Point 9mm carbine rifle, a style of weapon used by the Columbine shooters, and that O’Connor knew was “ideally-suited for the purpose he intended to use it — killing as many students as possible.”

• Using that rifle to rob a convenience store Feb 12 as part of a plan to raise money to buy more guns and ammunition for use in the school attack.

• Possessing an explosive device known as a “cricket,” an improvised bomb similar to those used by the Columbine killers and that O’Connor wrote he planned to make use of as well.

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.

The affidavit filed in support of the charges contains multiple excerpts from O’Connor’s journal.

In some he discusses the types of weapons he could use to kill classmates, listing details about caliber, ammunition capacity and even their weight in ounces. In others he writes about battling depression and ways he may opt to end his own life, including gunshot and poison. He wrote about what should happen with his possessions and his ashes. And there are step-by-step descriptions for how the killings could unfold at school, including details about anticipated police response times.

“I hate everyone,” O’Connor reportedly wrote Jan. 31. “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 they found bullet-riddled gun range targets in O’Connor’s room that featured the same “redrum” message.

O’Connor has lived with his grandparents on and off throughout his life, in Alaska, Arizona and Washington. They became his legal guardians in 2015 after Arizona officials investigated a neglect case involving his mother, according to court papers.

His grandparents told police that the teen had a 3.6 grade-point average in his freshman and sophomore years in high school in Arizona, but his grades plummeted after he began smoking marijuana. They moved with him to Washington to give him a fresh start.

O’Connor originally attended Kamiak High School after moving here, but transferred to ACES after being told it was his best hope of graduating on schedule in spring 2018. His friends at ACES have told police that he was a target of bullying at Kamiak.

It was at ACES that he reportedly dressed up as the Columbine shooter for acting class. His teacher told police that O’Connor overcame her reservations.

“Although the teacher was not comfortable with the proposal, she allowed him to continue because she thought he was being objective and professional about it, appeared to be relating with Harris, and bringing the plight of bullying victims to light,” the prosecutor wrote.

Careful study of the Columbine killings over the years has demonstrated that the bullying narrative, like much of what has come to be believed true about the event, isn’t supported by fact. Instead, the killings now are believed to be the result of deadly interplay between two deeply disturbed young men with ready access to weapons.

O’Connor has twice been suspended from school here for incidents involving marijuana, Alsdorf wrote. After the latest incident, he ran away from home for five months. He resurfaced in Arizona in September after a car crash left him with a broken ankle and a concussion, court papers say.

His grandparents arranged for his return here. In December, at his request, they bought for his 18th birthday a membership at the south Everett gun range. That’s where he legally bought the carbine a few weeks later. His grandparents told police they didn’t know that he’d acquired the weapon.

Police earlier this week arrested Marquez Daniel, 18, for investigation of helping O’Connor rob the convenience store Feb. 12. They say the teen’s DNA showed up on a rubber Donald Trump mask that was found in O’Connor’s bedroom. They say O’Connor’s DNA is on a mask of Kim Jong Un. The masks match those worn by the robbers.

Police say O’Connor wrote about the holdup in his final journal entry before his arrest.

“Looks like my friend and I got away with it,” he reportedly wrote. “That (expletive’s) face was priceless when I held my rifle right up to her face. HA! HA! HA! We didn’t get much money, but (expletive) tonight was a great night. I felt so powerful if I wanted to I could just have ended her life right there … but I’d rather fry some bigger fish.”

O’Connor remained jailed Friday on $5 million bail. “Although there is currently no evidence that the defendant’s planned school shooting involved any accomplices or co-conspirators, this dangerous possibility must be addressed until it can be ruled out,” Alsdorf wrote.

The investigation “is still active, ongoing and not yet complete,” the prosecutor said in court papers.

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

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