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Tampa teen in school plot had run-ins with law

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[August 18, 2011]  TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- At 17 years old, Jared Cano had been expelled and had several run-ins with the law, though none of the charges from burglary to drug possession had been pressed.

When Tampa police, who periodically checked on the teen because of his troubled past, were tipped off that Cano was plotting to bomb the school that had kicked him out a year earlier, they thought the information was plausible enough that they knocked on his apartment door and his mother let them search the place.

Cano had amassed shrapnel, plastic tubing, timing and fuse devices to make pipe bombs, all for a plot in which he intended to cause more casualties than the Columbine High School massacre where 13 were killed before the two student attackers killed themselves, police said Wednesday.

Police and the school system "were probably able to thwart a potentially catastrophic event, the likes of which the city of Tampa has not seen, and hopefully never will," Police Chief Jane Castor said.

Before Tuesday's discovery, Cano had been arrested several times, most recently accused of breaking into a house and stealing a handgun, Tampa police said. He had a court-ordered curfew and was on a police watch list.

"We've been very, very familiar with him," police Maj. John Newman said.

Besides the bomb-making materials, officers said they also found a journal with schematic drawings of rooms inside Freedom High School and statements about Cano's intent to kill specific administrators and any students who happened to be nearby on Aug. 23. The plan was mapped out, minute-by-minute, Castor said.

His juvenile arrests included burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, altering serial numbers on a firearm and drug possession. They all had been either dismissed or no action had been taken, beyond putting his name on the police watch list.

He also had a marijuana-growing operation, police said. On his Facebook page, he says he attends the "University of Marijuana," where he is studying "how to grow weed."

Cano was arrested Tuesday night and faces charges of possessing bomb-making materials, cultivating marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, possessing marijuana and threatening to throw, project, place or discharge a destructive device. He was being held in a juvenile lockup in Tampa. The state attorney's office will decide whether he will be charged as an adult.

His troubles at school ended with his expulsion in April 2010. Cano likely would have been "red-flagged" as soon as he stepped on campus and probably would not have been able to pull off his plan when classes started next week, Principal Chris Farkas said.

Farkas said he is accustomed to all sorts of threats at a school of 2,100 on a large campus in the northern suburbs. Still, he was spooked about what might have been.

"Once I found out and saw the information and saw what was taken from the apartment complex, that was when the reality and the fear set in that this was a real situation," he said.

The St. Petersburg Times reported that prosecutors at a hearing Wednesday said that when Cano was arrested he repeated his plan to detonate a bomb and cause mass casualties at Freedom, which opened in 2002 and was named to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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Cano tried to speak when he appeared before a judge but was quickly hushed by a public defender standing beside him.

"The plot wasn't..." Cano said, before the public defender stopped him and told the judge that "he has no comment," according to the Times.

Cano's Facebook page includes photos of him holding a machete and drinking from a bottle of malt liquor.

He lists two favorite quotes: "lessons not learned in blood are soon forgotten" and "dont trust anybody, cuz they all just wait for you to s--- a brick of gold so they can take it." He listed just 25 friends and no one that was out around the apartment complex seemed to know him.

On his Facebook page Tuesday morning, Cano wrote: "i jut did the dumbest thing ever!"

Police told Farkas that Cano worked alone. Parents of every student got a recorded call informing them about Cano's arrest, said the principal of the high-performing school built to handle the overflowing northern suburbs in an area some locals refer to as New Tampa.

After Cano was expelled from Freedom, he attended a charter school and left voluntarily in March, according to Hillsborough County schools spokeswoman Linda Cobbe. At that point, he was 16 and could have chosen to drop out. He was not registered to attend classes this upcoming school year.

The Department of Children and Families said the agency investigated Cano's family in 2009. A spokesman gave no other details except to say DCF found no evidence of abuse or neglect.

Police said his mother let them search the apartment in a modest complex just a few miles from the school. The Tampa Tribune reported that Cano's great-grandfather Elliot Horning said Cano's mother, Michelle, was divorced from his father and worked as a math teacher at another Tampa high school. His mother was not at the apartment Wednesday.

[Associated Press; By MITCH STACY]

Associated Press writers Christine Armario and Kelli Kennedy contributed to this report from Miami.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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