Most serious charges against teen accused of plotting mass shooting dismissed

Minneapolis area residents likely recall hearing about 17-year-old John LaDue's arrest last spring. The teen was arrested after a woman became suspicious of his behavior at a storage facility and called police. Upon finding LaDue at the storage site, police also discovered explosive devices and the troubled teen's plot to kill his family and carryout a mass shooting at his high school.

LaDue was arrested and charged with "four counts of attempted premeditated murder" and "two charges of attempted first-degree damage to property." Lesser charges against the teen included six charges related to the possession of the explosive devices found in the storage unit. Just this week, a judge ruled to dismiss the six most serious criminal charges against LaDue, changing both the trajectory of the boy's future as well as the criminal case against him.

In the fifteen plus years since the mass school shooting at Columbine High School, Americans have since endured numerous other school and public shootings in which many innocent men, women and children have been injured and killed. No one wants to see any more bloodshed. However, in the quest to stop these types of shooting-related crimes, fear and overreaction often dominate.

Upon learning of the dismissal of the six most serious charges against his son, David LaDue expressed relief and also mentioned feeling somewhat vindicated. Neither he nor his wife realized their son was "having such dark thoughts," but he stood by his belief that the teen would not have carried out the plot.

This same belief provided the basis for the teen's defense as his attorney pointed to the fact that the criminal charges hinged on "mere preparation" and no actual action or threats of action on LaDue's part. The judge's decision to dismiss the six serious criminal charges was therefore largely based on the prosecution’s failure to "show that LaDue made a substantial step...toward the commission of the crimes."

It's obvious to everyone involved in this case that this 17-year-old juvenile is mentally ill and needs help. The dismissal of charges related to attempted premeditated murder and first-degree damage to property will hopefully quiet the calls to lock this young man up for the rest of his life and allow him instead to seek the help and healing he so desperately needs.

Source: Star Tribune, "Judge scales back charges against Waseca teen plotting school attack," Pam Louwagie and Mary Lynn Smith, July 29, 2014

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