LAKELAND, Florida -- We often hear about mass shootings on a school campus afterit happens, but the staff at Sleepy Hill Middle School saw the signs ofpossible trouble and reported it to law enforcement. Three students were arrested for conspiracy to commit murder by setting off explosives at school.
In an exclusive interview, School Resource Officer Lori Edwards spoke with 10 News of the events leading up to the arrests and gave insight on the student police call the ring leader.
"I knew I had a serious problem," said Officer Edwards.
On April 2, Edwards said she received an email from the school's guidance counselor with concerns from teachers who had seen disturbing pictures in a 7th grade student's binder several inches thick. Edwards said it's a binder filled with a year's worth of research on mass shooters and making explosives, all compiled by 13-year-old Zulamita Montalvo, one of three students who allegedly were plotting an attack on the school.
"There were pictures of Adam Lanza of the Sandy Hook shooting, James Holmes of the Colorado shooting, and Eric Harris of Columbine," said Edwards. "She seemed to be into these individuals. She worshipped them like heroes."
Police say the students, especially Montalvo, were out to create "chaos" on a campus filled with nearly a thousand students and staff members.
"She had her mind set that she wanted to do this. It didn't matter who got in the way. She wanted to do it," said Edwards.
How many people was Montalvo willing to hurt? "As many as she could," said Edwards.
According to Edwards, of the three students, only Montalvo admitted to practicing Satanism. She listened to dark music and watched dark movies. While a date had not been set for the attack and the students had not bought the materials needed, Edwards said, "They were well on their way to a good, solid plan. It was more involved more than just the bombs."
Edwards said the students deny being bullied, and overall had stayed out of trouble at school. Then why carry out this alleged attack?
"We don't know," said Edwards. "I think we saved a lot of lives. To me, that's more important than anything, making my campus safe."
Police say Montalvo remains at Lakeland Regional Medical Center undergoing psychological evaluation. Edwards hopes all three students, Montalvo along with Giselle Mendoza, 12, and Nicholas Christakos, 13, get the help they need to live normal ives.
The three students are charged with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, and conspiracy to construct destructive devices.