Deputies: Mass shooting thwarted at Leto High School

5:10 AM, Aug 26, 2010   |    comments
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Video: 6pm: Police: Mass shooting thwarted at Leto High School

Video: 11pm: Police: Mass shooting thwarted at Leto High School

Austin James Cook


Tampa, Florida - Hillsborough County deputies say thanks to a tip to Crime Stoppers, a mass shooting planned for Leto High School was avoided. 

Hillsborough County deputies say Austin James Cook, 17, told witnesses he wanted to "break a record" by killing more people at Leto High School than the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres.

Detectives say they got a credible tip through Campus Crime Stoppers in July and have been investigating ever since.

Investigators say they lawfully searched Cook's Tampa home and seized a .22 caliber rifle, a bow and arrow, and books on firearms.  They also confiscated a computer, which they say has a Columbine-related video game on it.

Photo Gallery: Austin Cook's MySpace, Facebook pages

Cook, who attended Leto last year, was arrested Tuesday.

Students and parents at Leto High were shocked to hear what deputies say could have happened.

Leto student Orlando Nunez told 10 News, "I don't know what anybody did to him, for him to do that.  I think he deserves to be arrested for even thinking of doing something like that."

An ominous quote on Cook's MySpace page reads, "The time bomb is ticking and no one is listening... my future is fading, is there any hope I'll survive?"

The quote is taken from a song about global climate change called "Another Way to Die" by the rock band Disturbed.

Cook's last log-in to MySpace was August 22nd, the day before he was arrested.

Deputies say the arrest came thanks to those who tipped off Crime Stoppers to the possible plan.  They say it is proof the school system's program works.

Steve Hegarty with the Hillsborough County School District said, "This is something we promote in the schools all the time.  Kids want to have a safe campus, so if they hear something and pass it along, we really, really rely on kids to do that."

One of the people who came forward said Cook asked him to commit the crime with him in November -- on 11/11/2011.

Cook told deputies it was all a joke.

Larry McKinnon with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said, "Anytime we get those threats, whether it is a joke or not, you're going to face the consequences."

Now, that Cook's behind bars, Leto High parents say they're breathing something of a sigh of relief.

"I'm glad they caught the kid.  I'm glad he's out of here but I mean, you just got to wonder -- where are we safe?" asked Leto High parent Dali Vazquez.

Cook is being held in jail with no bond and faces two felony charges: Solicitation to Commit Murder and Threatening to Discharge a Destructive Device. McKinnon says Cook faces up to 30 years in prison.  

Join a discussion about the arrest with local parents who have children that attend Leto High School.

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