School Shooting Suspect Arrested in Florida

Authorities have arrested a 17-year old Tampa, Florida youth, who apparently expressed an interest in surpassing the death tolls of the Columbine and Virginia Tech school shootings.

Austin James Cook, according to, was looking for help in his planned massacre, which he had scheduled for November 11, 2011, or 11/11/11. Authorities were tipped to Cook’s plans and began an investigation in July. The boy was arrested on Monday.

After Cook’s mother consented to letting police search her son’s room, they found an antique .22 caliber rifle, which hadn’t been fired in 40 years, a bow and arrow and “several books about firearms.” A search of Cook’s computer revealed “a Columbine video game” (Super Columbine Massacre RPG no doubt).

Some of the similarities between Cook and the Columbine shooters are a little eerie, whether coincidental or not. The arrest report pinned Cook as a member of a gang called “Anonymous Goons,” which his mother said was simply a name that a group of friends gave to themselves. Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were (falsely) linked to a similar group at their school, the Trench Coat Mafia.

Cook was also reportedly considering joining the military after receiving his GED, similar to Harris’ flirtation with joining the Marine Corps (he had met with a Marine Corp. recruiter). The seriousness of Harris’ commitment to joining the military has been questioned in retrospect; it’s thought that it was more of a smokescreen to get his parents off his back.

Also, Cook had a few run-ins with the law. He was arrested at school last year for marijuana possession and, in April of this year, he was arrested again for “busted up some cars,” reportedly slashing their tires and breaking windshields.

Dylan and Klebold were arrested shortly before undertaking their massacre for breaking into a van and stealing electronic equipment. An investigator in the case, as written in the book Columbine, billed that event as “the single most important event in Eric’s progression to murder.”

Cook is being held without bond.

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  1. 0
    Sajomir says:

    I agree that *if* he was just joking around, while I would find it in bad taste, he shouldnt’ be arrested.

    However, if he was talking about recruiting help, just remember freedom of speech does NOT protect anything that’s intended to incite violence – recruiting for a school shooting isn’t exactly pacifist.

  2. 0
    Thad says:

    That certainly happens, but it’s too early for me to make a call on whether that’s what’s happened here.  It’s not exactly unusual for the accused to proclaim his innocence while the police keep their evidence under wraps.  Yeah, that could mean that their evidence is flimsy, but it’s also what a smart, professional PD would do: you don’t go giving your early evidence to the press; you wait to build a case for the trial.

    Could go either way; we’ll see what else comes out on this one.

  3. 0
    Neeneko says:

    In my mind, with what is given, it is not a thin line.

    If someone has taken no material steps twards a crime and is puretly ‘joking with a friend’, then no crime has happened.  This should be a strait forward bill of rights issue.. freedom of speech, freedom to associate.   It did not rise to the level of fighting words so that exemption can not cut in.

    I see cases like this as local officals implementing ‘cover your ass security’… being over zealous and gaining politial points in cases where they know the backlash will be low and the victim unable to do much to hurt them politically.

  4. 0
    Thad says:

    Well, exactly, but he’s not suspected of a school shooting, he’s suspected of PLANNING one.  Obviously that’s a bad thing, but calling him a "school shooting suspect" implies that, well, there was a school shooting.

  5. 0
    Thad says:

    It IS an awfully fine line, and from the story it’s hard to tell if there was really a legitimate conspiracy — music lyrics on a MySpace page and books about guns aren’t exactly probable cause.

    Most likely, the real evidence is in his attempt to recruit someone to help him — he says he was joking, whoever accused him thinks it’s serious.  We don’t have enough detail yet to know who’s telling the truth.

  6. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Ah… ha…..

    I can recall in high school I had a conversation with some friends about how many students I could kill with the jawbone of an ass…. I guess today that would be enough to land me in adult prision, esp if they went to my room and found books on animals.

    This is the problem with being so proactive in such cases.  If one has not actually done ANY planning or obtaining of equipment, it is really hard to tell if the person had any real intent to cause harm.  Seriously…. who does not, now and then, blow off a little steam with friends by saying how much you want to kill someone (or a group).  Crow, look at internet forums and how often people happily toss around genocide when they have probably not done anything more violent in their life then run over a squril.

  7. 0
    Shahab says:

    Well, it appears he hasn’t really done anything and he’ll at most serve a few months in a juvenile facility, get bullied or worse, then come out again even more screwed up and REALLY ready to commit some murders. So yeah, I don’t know how great a thing this really was.

  8. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    Good thing they got him before anything serious had happened.

    Unfortunately, especialyl wit hthe prpximety to a certain soemone ,video games wille be massivley played up.

  9. 0
    Thad says:

    Hardly a school shooting suspect, is he?  I mean, if there wasn’t actually a school shooting.

    I realize "school shooting conspiracy suspect" makes for a more awkward headline, but…isn’t the very next story down one that complains about reporters using misleading headlines?

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