Friday, October 12, 2007
Know your Enemy on Domestic Terrorist at early stage. Teen planning massacre on Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School with possesion of a Illegal Arsenal. Do you believe the parents should be investigated and prosecuted if they resul guilty? Did you believe should a better security recommendations for schools? .
THE PARENTS of a 14-year boy in an upscale Montgomery County suburb seemed to have a bizarre goal: To purchase some kind of firearm for their teenage son.
In fact, the Daily News has learned that their unusual quest has already led to a felony gun plea and house arrest for the teen's father, Frank E. Cossey. Authorities now say Cossey's son had been scheming to pull off a "Columbine-style" attack on Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School.
In the end, it was one of his peers who tipped off the cops.
"I was just sick of hearing about all these school shootings," said the tipster, 14-year-old Lewis Bennett, in an exclusive interview last night.
Lewis was referring to a shooting Wednesday in which another 14-year-old made national headlines after wounding two students and two teachers before killing himself in a Cleveland high school.
"I didn't want another kid to do the same thing and keep this chain of events going on," Lewis continued. "I wanted to stop him."
And so he did. He told his parents, and together they went to police.
Cops swarmed the Plymouth Meeting home of Frank and Michele Cossey Wednesday night, arresting their son and confiscating 30 air and BB guns, a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol and three hand grenades.
Incredibly, it was the teen's mother who had purchased the semiautomatic two weeks ago at a gun show, with the intent to give it to him, authorities said. Prosecutors in Montgomery County are looking to see if she, too, can be charged.
"He was in the planning stage and he was trying to recruit people to help him," Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. said yesterday at a news conference in Norristown, where he displayed the mountain of munitions seized from the teen's home.
However, that pile didn't include any ammunition, and authorities do not believe that an attack was going to happen anytime soon.
The arrested teen, whose name the Daily News is withholding because of his age, had attended middle school in the Colonial School District but voluntarily left to be home-schooled more than a year ago, Castor said. Friends said the teen felt he'd been bullied for being overweight.
He was being held at a youth facility yesterday on charges of solicitation to commit terror and other offenses. He faces a detention hearing this morning in Norristown.
At the teen's home, police also recovered "The Anarchist Cookbook," which contains recipes for bombs, drugs and other dangerous, illegal items; knives and swords; videos of the Columbine shooting; materials about Nazi Germany; explosive black powder, and diaries in which the teen detailed violent acts.
Most of the weaponry was in plain view in his bedroom, Castor said.
"There was no way one or both parents didn't know about this," Castor said.
Luckily, Lewis Bennett also knew. All day yesterday parents and students called Lewis' house and knocked on the door to thank him.
"We're proud of him," said Lewis' dad, Lewis Bennett Jr. "What's important is that he did the right thing. Some people say teenagers are bad and kids these days don't know right from wrong, but some kids do and we're just so proud of him that he did know right from wrong and he felt comfortable enough with his parents to tell us."
Just after dinner Wednesday night, Lewis told them about the teen's sinister plot. He said the teen told him sometime in July or August of a plan to shoot kids who made fun of his weight.
At the time, Lewis, a ninth-grader at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High, said the teen owned only BB guns, nothing more. Lewis said he decided to keep tabs on the scene and became something of a double-agent. He didn't agree to help, but he didn't tell him, "No way. That's crazy." He just listened, he said.
"I'm not stupid," Lewis said.
Then on Wednesday, Lewis learned that the teen now had a gun and he knew he needed to blow the whistle on a plan that seemed to go from just tough talk to something perhaps deadly overnight, he said.
The 9 mm gun purchased by the mother at a gun show had a laser pointer and was capable of firing 30 rounds per magazine, Castor said.
That, in Castor's mind, is a straw purchase, and thereby illegal, he said. Minors aren't permitted to buy guns in Pennsylvania and may possess firearms, as for hunting or target shooting, only while supervised by adults.
"There's a serious problem with that, and we're going to address that," Castor said, adding: "What we're going to find is that this is a supervision issue with the parents."
In December 2005, the boy's father wanted to get his son a gun for his birthday. He went to Dick's Sporting Goods on Chemical Road in Plymouth Township. He filled out an application for a .22-caliber rifle and lied about his criminal record, saying he had never been convicted of a felony.
In fact, the dad pleaded guilty in 1981 to first-degree manslaughter for driving while drunk and killing someone in a collision in Oklahoma City. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and released in 1987. Ironically, according to court documents, the father was also a deserter from the Marine Corps.
When police learned that the father purchased a gun illegally at Dick's in June 2005, they went to his house on Church Road and confronted him. He met them on the front lawn. He was polite and soft-spoken, police said.
"He stated that he hadn't been sure if he could buy the firearm or not so he tried to purchase it," a Plymouth Township detective wrote in an affidavit of probable cause.
In May, a judge sentenced the 54-year-old man to nine months of house arrest for making false statements when buying a gun, a third-degree felony.
At the time, his wife wrote a letter to the judge begging for leniency. She said her husband was "a decent man" and a "good father" who had "no malice in his heart" when he tried to buy his son "his first child-size rifle."
Yesterday, police found no ammunition in the boy's bedroom. But one of three grenades found was operational, and the boy was working on the two others to make them active.
"I do not think an attack was imminent and I am not certain that an attack was going to occur at all," Castor said.
"It could have simply been big talking by a kid who thought that he was bullied previously and he was going to exact his revenge."
Neighborhood kids said that the young suspect was well-known for his love of BB guns.
"He had this little militia idea," said Kevin, a 14-year-old, who lives around the corner from the Cosseys. "He plays this game called, 'Call of Duty' – it's a war game. He wanted to form his own little army, but he never had ideas to shoot anyone."
Kevin, a ninth-grader at Plymouth-Whitemarsh, described the teen as "a pretty cool kid."
"He would always let us play with his BB guns and we would shoot Coke cans in his backyard."
Yesterday, school officials emphasized that the high school's 1,500 students never were in danger and held classes, despite the media maelstrom outside.
"Police are confident that the incident is isolated to this individual and no threat to the school and/or students exists," read a statement posted yesterday morning on the district's Web site.
Not every parent agreed. Yesterday afternoon, parents rushed to the school to pick up their children after the school superintendent left a computerized phone message on their home and work phones at about 10 a.m.
Some parents, who played the message for reporters, said they were upset by the voice mail because in it, the superintendent refers to police thwarting a "Columbine-type event" and talks of police finding "numerous weapons" in a teen's home.
The voice mail also stressed to parents that there was no threat to the school. Parent Edward Smith said he got three such messages - two on his home phone and one on his cell. "If there is no danger, then why scare the hell out of us?" Smith said. "They scared the hell out of me."
Students yesterday described an atmosphere of chaos in which scared teens were "hysterical," crying in the hallways and classrooms, and parents and students sending panicked text-messages back and forth. At about 10:30 a.m., the principal made an announcement over the loudspeaker and told students not to worry.
Last night, residents in Plymouth Township and Norristown were buzzing about the teen's arrest. His mother is well-known in the area as the owner of Eve's, a Norristown deli famous locally for cheesesteaks and hoagies.
"What we have here is a situation where the good guys won one," Castor said. "This is a success story."
Castor credited a recent report his office put out that outlined ways for districts to improve school safety. Colonial School District embraced many of the recommendations, he added.
But the real hero was a 14-year-old friend. Last night, Lewis Bennett's mom took Lewis to Dairy Queen as a kind of reward.
"All I keep thinking is, what could have happened if he didn't tell us," she said. "I think, 'My God!'