Would-be school shooter pleads guilty
Last updated 12/12/2018 at Noon
The former ACES High School student with detailed plans to carry out a school shooting pled guilty last Thursday in Snohomish County Superior Court to attempted premeditated murder, possession of an explosive device and robbery.
Joshua O’Connor, 18, could face up to 28-and-a-half years in prison based on state guidelines, but his attorney expects to ask for a lesser sentence during O’Connor’s sentencing hearing Feb. 6.
O’Connor was arrested Feb. 13 after his grandmother called the police on him.
The night before his arrest, O’Connor returned home late on a cold night wearing a T-shirt and no jacket, while holding a guitar case. When his grandmother asked him why he didn’t have a jacket, he said it was in the guitar case.
After O’Connor left for school, his grandmother checked his room and found an AR-15-style rifle in the guitar case, as well as his journal, where she discovered he planned a school shooting at ACES.
His grandmother said she was shocked at the journal entries, and called police to notify them of his plans. She also found inactive grenades in the room.
After officers searched O’Connor’s room and read his journal, they drove to ACES and arrested him for probable cause. Officers said he was carrying a knife and marijuana.
He was arrested and held on $5 million bail.
O’Connor’s journal gave detailed accounts of his plans to bomb and shoot up ACES.
“I’m preparing myself for the school shooting,” he wrote. “I can’t wait. My aim has gotten so much more accurate I can’t wait to blow all those (expletive) away.”
Initially, journal entries showed he originally plotted a shooting Kamiak High School, where he had attended in 2016-2017.. He said he wanted to make the shooting “infamous.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot I need to make this shooting/bombing at Kamiak infamous,” he wrote in a Jan. 9 entry. “I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I need (underlined three times) to make this count.”
In the same entry, O’Connor went on to say he was reviewing past shootings and bombings, and was “learning from past shooters/bombers mistakes, so I won’t make the same ones.”
Later, in a Feb. 2 journal entry titled “Coin flip of fate,” O’Connor said he flipped a coin to decide whether to carry out his plan at ACES or Kamiak, and it resulted in him targeting ACES, contrary to the previous journal entry.
(Prior to attending Mukilteo schools, O’Connor lived in Arizona with his mother, before his grandparents became his legal guardians and moved to Washington.)
“The results: I’m coming for you ACES. Damn Kamiak, you (expletive) got lucky.”
In the Jan. 9 entry, O’Connor said he planned the shooting and bombing April 19.
Officers believed the date was important, as it’s the same day as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and one day before the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.
Later, reports surfaced that O’Connor dressed as mass murderer Eric Harris, one of the two Columbine High School shooters, as part of an acting class assignment in January 2018. A photo obtained by police shows O’Connor wearing a white shirt similar to what Harris wore during the Columbine shooting, with the words “natural selection” on it, though “natural” was allegedly misspelled.
In an entry titled, “Outline for ACES Massacre,” O’Connor wrote he was planning to bring all his gear to school, would wait until just after the lunch bell, and go to the gym and zip tie doors shut to prevent escape.
According to court documents, he planned on using a pressure cooker bomb by the school’s bleachers.
“As soon as FTP bomb goes off, start shooting spree and start music. Throw pipe bomb and smoke bomb in office. Mow kids down in hallway and gym."
O’Connor finished the entry by saying he would kill himself after events unfolded.
The night before O’Connor’s arrest, he and a friend robbed an ampm gas station on Casino Road.
O’Connor and his accomplice wore masks in the likenesses of President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
According to court documents, the duo left the convenience store with roughly $100.
O’Connor wrote about the armed robbery in his journal, saying he felt powerful while pointing a rifle at the female employee.
In surveillance footage, O’Connor was wearing a distinctive green-and-black jacket while holding a rifle. That jacket was found in the guitar case, along with the rifle used in the robbery.
O’Connor legally purchased his rifle from West Coast Armory in Everett. He wrote in his journal about how easy it was for him to purchase.
“So today I just bought a 10 plus 1 9 mm carbine rifle,” he wrote Jan. 25. “They didn’t have it in stock at West Coast Armory, so it’s going to take a week to come in. I'm just so stoked that I bought it. I can’t wait for the carbine to come. It’s too (expletive) easy to buy a gun.”
It was the rifle he used in the ampm robbery, and was the weapon he planned on using during the school shooting.