CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — There’s barbed wire surrounding Countryside High School but that doesn’t shield students from what can happen on the inside.
High schoolers returned to school Friday morning, a day after two students were stabbed by a 14-year-old classmate.
As students returned to the crowded halls, Clearwater Police Chief Eric Gandy stood at a podium inside the Clearwater Police Department to shed new light on the incident.
“Based on what we’ve been able to compile thus far, this was a lone suspect who conducted an intentional and targeted attack,” Gandy said. “This individual idolized serial killers, domestic terrorists, and hated humanity.”
Gandy was reluctant to release the teen’s name because they “wanted recognition for this incident,” but was obligated by law to do so. WFLA has chosen not to identify the suspect, due to their age.
“The victims went to school yesterday to learn, to be with friends, but they were violently and suddenly attacked by this individual,” Gandy added. “He was homicidal and intent on killing people. We know this because of a manifesto we have in our possession in the suspect’s own words.”
“This is the real deal. This person had homicidal intentions that day.”
Gandy said the suspect first stabbed a 14-year-old fellow student in the neck before stabbing a 16-year-old student in the chest and abdomen. Both victims were rushed to area hospitals for emergency treatment. So far, only one student has been released from the hospital.
The stabbings appear to be random.
“In less than two minutes, the [student resource officers] had the suspect at gunpoint and were taking him into custody,” Gandy told reporters on Thursday. “Had we not intervened, he would have stabbed more people.”
The 14-year-old suspect was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Additional charges are pending the results of an investigation.
Gandy said the suspect enrolled at the school in January. Before then, he is believed to have lived in several communities across Florida and possibly Las Vegas.
Students have the opportunity to talk to counselors if they need help coping with Thursday’s act of violence.
Former Police Lieutenant Randy Sutton applauded the swift action of the SROs on campus.
“If they had not been there, who knows how many other students would have been hurt and how long it would have taken to apprehend the suspect,” Sutton said.
Police said the attacker had no history of violence at school.
Some parents said they are frustrated with how common these occurrences have become.
“Every year we’re having something,” a parent, Jenna Marshall said. “Whether it’s a bomb threat, somebody’s brought a gun, somebody’s brought a knife. Sometimes it’s multiple times a year.”
Randy Sutton said this is a prime example of why school resource officers are so needed.
“There have been police officers in literally hundreds of school districts across the nation that were removed from the schools as part of the defunding movement,” Sutton said.