11:21 AM PDT, September 14, 2021
The mother of a 14-year-old boy who is suspected of plotting a Columbine-inspired mass shooting at his middle school is defending her son against the accusations.
Phillip Byrd, 14, and his 13-year-old friend Connor Pruett were allegedly planning to target their middle school in Lehigh Acres, Florida.
“My son is no monster. He would not have hurt anybody. My niece goes to the school, and he sure as heck wouldn’t have hurt his family,” Phillip’s mother, Carrie Tuller, told Inside Edition.
Tuller broke down in tears during the boys’ appearance in court on Sunday.
“He’s just a little boy. He didn’t think this was really serious,” Tuller said.
The boys were arrested after an 8th grade teacher was tipped off by a student at the school who said that one of the boys was carrying a gun in his backpack. No gun was found, but there was a map of the school that contained markings showing the location of each surveillance camera.
The teens are said to have been “extensively studying” the 1999 Columbine massacre.
“I am absolutely convinced that we prevented a mass shooting,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno told Inside Edition. “Two suspects have been surfing online trying to buy guns on the black market. They researched thoroughly Columbine. They were inspired by Columbine.”
Deputies searched their homes and found ammo, shotgun shells, knives and other weapons.
The teens are due back in court Sept. 27.