All too often, a tragedy happens that could have easily been averted if only people could see that it was coming. Rather than noticing hints that something is wrong, people often overlook signs, safe in their assumptions that everything will be ok.
And usually, that assumption is correct. But when one woman noticed something that was off, she chose not to ignore it. She looked into the signs and found out that something was very wrong indeed…
Cathi was a typical grandmother. She took care of her grandson Joshua, who was an 18-year-old high school senior. Like all parents and grandparents, she had concerns about Joshua’s development.
Raising A Boy
She worried about the usual things: how Joshua’s grades could be better, whether or not he was getting along well with his friends, if he would be able to succeed in life after he finished school and (hopefully) moved out…
But unlike most guardians, she also worried about a growing darkness she could sense in Joshua that seemed to be more than just a typical case of teenage angst and rebellion. It was perhaps that feeling of darkness that made Cathi consider opening Joshua’s journal.
When she first came across the journal, Cathi was torn about reading its contents. On the one hand, it would be a violation of Joshua’s privacy to read his private thoughts without his consent. On the other hand, she was genuinely concerned for his safety…
In the end, Cathi decided that protecting Joshua’s well-being was more important than protecting his privacy and she opened the journal. What she found when she began reading caught her completely off-guard.
I Can’t Wait
“I’m preparing myself for the school shooting. I can’t wait. My aim has gotten much more accurate,” Joshua wrote. ”I can’t wait to walk into that class and blow all those f***ers away.” Cathi’s mouth hung agape as she read the words…
Cathi thought that maybe what she was reading was just some twisted joke or fantasy. She had to read more of the journal in hopes that that was true. Instead what she found was more and more information to suggest that Joshua truly did intend to attack a nearby high school.
As she continued to read, Cathi became increasingly certain that Joshua was serious about carrying out his plan to hurt people and that he was getting closer and closer to accomplishing his “mission.”…
Make It Count
It was important to Joshua that this be not just any old school shooting. “I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can,” he wrote. “I need to make this count. I’ve been reviewing many mass shootings/bombings (and attempted bombings) I’m learning from past shooters/bombers mistakes.”
Joshua had written down the lessons he took from previous shooters and bombers right there in that journal. There were details about how to make pressure-cooker bombs, how to activate inert grenades, and how to deploy explosives to inflict maximum casualties. With his accumulated knowledge, Joshua had already selected a target…
Heads or Tails
Joshua attended Aces High School but there was another school, Kamiak High School, that was just 5 miles away from that. He had no personal grudge that motivated him, just a general hatred for everyone. Other people mattered so little to him that he flipped a coin to decide which school to attack, which turned out to be Aces High.
To add further weight to the idea that these were no idle fantasies, Joshua had committed another crime already. Just a few days before Cathi had read his journal, he’d taken part in a robbery holding up a female clerk at a convenience store with a rifle as another person he was with emptied out the cash register…
Rush of Power
In his journal, Joshua wrote about how powerful he felt and how much he enjoyed the fear in the clerk’s eyes. Reading this and the plans Joshua had made in his journal, Cathi knew that she had to act before her grandson could hurt anyone else.
The next morning, when Joshua was at school, Cathi made an incredibly difficult decision: she called 911. “I’m finding journal entries from my grandson,” she told the dispatcher. “He’s planning on having a mass shooting at one of the high schools.”…
Later in the day, authorities went to Aces High where they arrested Joshua O’Connor — one day before 17 people were killed in the Parkland, Florida shooting. When they patted him down, officers found that he was carrying marijuana and a knife. During the arrest, Joshua somehow managed to slip one of his hands out of the handcuffs.
Making A Break
When he got his hand loose, Joshua “mule kicked” his arresting officer and tried to make a break for it. Fortunately, he was tripped up and fell after taking just a few steps and was quickly apprehended…
Search The Home
After his arrest, police searched Cathi’s home where they found his journal, a semi-automatic rifle hidden inside a guitar case, and “military styled inert grenades and other evidentiary items.” Investigators would later determine that the rifle they found matched the one used in the convenience store robbery.
Joshua was charged with robbery for what he’d done at the convenience store, as well as assault on an officer for his escape attempt, and attempted murder for what he’d been planning. With bail set at $5 million, it was near impossible that he’d be getting out of jail before his court date.
See Something, Say Something
“This is a case where the adage ‘see something, say something’ potentially saved many lives,” said Chief Dan Templeman in a press release. “It is critically important for community members, to include students and parents, to remain observant and immediately report odd or suspicious behaviors with our children or with fellow students.”
“We were fortunate that a family member believed there were credible threats and contacted law enforcement for further investigation,” Chief Templeman said. “I’m sure the decision was difficult to make, but fortunately, it was the correct one.”