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Maryland teenager accused of plotting school shooting in 129-page document

Alex Ye, 18, of Rockville, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of threats of mass violence, the Montgomery County Police Department said in a statement Thursday.
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A Maryland teenager wanted to carry out two school shootings and outlined those plans in a 129-page document that a tipster flagged to authorities, officials said Thursday.

Alex Ye, 18, of Rockville, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of threats of mass violence, the Montgomery County Police Department said in a statement on Thursday.

Central to the case is the document, which was seized under a search warrant following an investigation by the FBI and police, according to the statement.

"In the document, Ye writes about committing a school shooting, and strategizes how to carry out the act. Ye also contemplates targeting an elementary school and says that he wants to be famous," police said.

In his writings, Ye allegedly explained that he wanted to attack his former elementary school because “little kids make easier targets” and also “strategized on how to access the easiest classrooms in his high school,” Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones told reporters in Gaithersburg on Friday.

“This situation highlights the critical importance of vigilance and community involvement in preventing potential tragedies,” Jones said, adding that “a potentially catastrophic event was prevented” by the brave witness and collaborative efforts by authorities.

Despite these mass shooting plans, Ye wrote that his real desire was to become a serial killer.

“Ye also wrote that he wanted to become a serial killer instead of a mass murderer because serial killers are romanticized a lot more,” Jones added.

Police have been investigating Ye since early March and only arrested him this week when they feared he might actually carry out these plans.

"It’s not our goal to make an arrest in every case of a threat," Jones said, adding that his agency has worked on 140 tips of possible school violence this academic year alone.

"But this case is different. This case is entirely different — that takes it to a different level. It was a concerned witness who brought this matter to light by reporting the suspect’s manifesto to authorities."

Investigators also found internet searches, drawings and documents "related to mass threats of violence," according to the statement.

Police added that security had been increased at schools as a result of the investigation, particularly Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, where Ye had attended in person before being sent to a string of psychiatric hospitals.

Authorities first learned of the document — which Ye called a “memoir” — after being contacted by an informant named in court records only as "Witness-One." The person spent time in a psychiatric facility with Ye, who said the memoir was a fictional account of a high school shooting.

According to court records, the memoir opens with a disclaimer that says: "This is not threat of violence, nor does it represent the author’s beliefs."

But its content was enough to alarm authorities and court records allege Ye put at least five people at Wootton High School "at a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury if the threat were carried out."

"It appears that the 'manifesto' has portions of fictional and non-fictional qualities and is based on reality with a plan of Threats of Mass Violence," officials said in court documents.

Ye allegedly wrote of wanting to shoot up his school with an AR-15, targeting the elementary school because little kids make easier targets, wanting to be famous and wanting to set the record for the most kills.

His internet searches included gun ranges “near me” and searches about school shootings including Sandy Hook and Parkland, prosecutors said. He was also in a Discord chat group with others focused on glorifying school shootings, the charging document said.

Ye was hospitalized from December 2022 for threatening to "shoot up school," and for having homicidal and suicidal ideations, according to court records. It was not immediately clear why Ye was released the next month as court records say it was determined he was still preoccupied with schools shootings, self-harm and explosives.

Ye had not attended school since the fall of 2022, a public school spokesman said, but had continued his education through a remote learning program.

A gun, belonging to Ye's father, was found locked in the family home during a police search, Jones said. But the suspect did not appear to have access to a weapon.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich told reporters on Friday that Maryland's strict gun control laws may have prevented a tragedy.

"This could well be a case where the difficulty to get guns prevented him from getting a gun when he wanted it, and possibly prevented him from acting as soon as he would have preferred to act,” Elrich said.

Still, authorities said they believed Ye was a legitimate threat.

"Even after being removed from the school, Ye said that he could do something at graduation because he lived close to the school," Jones said Friday.

The state’s request for Ye to be held without bond until trial was granted at a court hearing on Friday, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office said. 

Ye’s trial is scheduled to start on June 3, 2024. He faces one misdemeanor charge of “threat of mass violence,” which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted.