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Crime & Courts

Defense: Freedom student couldn't have blown up school

Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 08:30 PM

Jared Cano, a former Freedom High School student, made plans to blow up the school, said he wanted to kill more people than were lost at Columbine and hoped to hack two assistant principals with a machete.

Cano's lawyer doesn't dispute any of those facts.

Still, defense attorney Norman S. Canella Sr. is asking a judge to dismiss criminal charges against his now-18-year-old client.

Canella maintains the items assembled by Cano – including a timer, pipes and chemicals – could not have exploded or hurt anyone.

But Assistant State Attorney John Terry said it doesn't matter under the law whether Cano's bomb would have succeeded.

Cano told a high school student about his plans, and the student was concerned enough to go to police and become an informant, Terry said. Cano made a timer and compiled bomb ingredients and instructions.

"The Legislature wants to stop these people before they actually make these bombs," Terry said during a hearing Thursday before Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Fernandez.

Fernandez reserved decision, saying she will issue a written opinion at a later date.

Cano, who had been expelled from the school, was arrested in August after authorities said they received a tip Cano wanted to bomb the school. Police searched his family's apartment and said they found bomb-making material, marijuana plants and a "manifesto" containing minute-by-minute plans to kill two school officials and at least 30 students.

Police Chief Jane Castor said Cano's writings included detailed drawings of the school. The bomb-making materials included fuel, fuses, shrapnel and timers.

Defense attorney Canella sent most of the materials to an explosives expert, Dale C. Mann, who concluded that the "person mixing them had little or no knowledge of explosive materials. These mixtures are not explosive and may not even be combustible."

But Terry said that expert conclusion is irrelevant under the law: "He was attempting to make an explosive device…The statute doesn't require that the bomb actually works."

Canella's motion to dismiss the charges gives the most-detailed description yet of Cano's actions. Because the prosecution has agreed those facts are accurate, the main legal fight is not over what Cano did, but what he intended to do.

The case began when police were contacted by a Freedom High School student about a planned attack at the school. Police went to the unnamed student's home on Aug. 16.

The student said he saw Cano make and detonate acid bombs using Drano and aluminum foil. He said Cano detonated bombs three or four times in the woods.

Two months earlier, the student told police, Cano said he wanted to kill himself and wanted other people to feel the same pain he did. He mentioned Columbine, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma City and said he wanted to use a propane bomb.

The student said Cano wanted to kill two assistant principals with a machete and wanted to get a sawed-off shotgun.

One day at Cano's apartment, Cano said he had perfected making a timer. He went online and got a Google map of the school. He said he was going to put bombs in the school cafeteria just like they did at Columbine.

Cano had watched the movies, "Zero Day," about Columbine, and "Rampage," about a hired killer. He said he wanted to become a legend and go out with a bang by killing more than 32 people, topping the death toll at Columbine and Virginia Tech.

The student said Cano told him he wanted to buy an AK47 with a laser sight.

The student became nervous and called his mother to pick him up. After thinking about it for a day, he told his mother and called the police.

With police listening in, the student called Cano, who said he heard his grandfather tell a therapist he thought Cano might do something like Columbine.

The student asked Cano if he might do that.

Cano responded: "Yep."

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7837