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LaDue’s parents hadn’t seen the transcripts or heard the audio Tuesday night, his father said. David LaDue said earlier, though, that he doesn’t believe his son would have ever carried out his plot and that the teens needs help, not punishment.
A smart kid who made A’s and B’s in school, LaDue was fascinated by guns and explosives. He would spend hours reading websites about how to synthesize explosives at home and gradually moved up to building his own small improvised explosive devices and detonating them all over town, at a playground, a church, at the gun range, on school grounds.
His YouTube channel was full of videos of his experiments, including one explosion of a small bomb made of toilet bowl cleaner, aluminum foil and an apple juice bottle.
A couple of friends helped him detonate some small explosives. He was testing the friends, he admitted, observing how they reacted to some things that he showed them, trying to gauge them as potential partners for his plan. “I wanted a partner really badly, but I observed many of my friends, and I could tell that none of them would do it, so I didn’t ask the question of any of them,” he said.
Preparing to carry out his plan alone, LaDue told officers he planned to use two pressure cooker bombs with explosives three times more powerful than the ones used at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
“I thought three casualties was pretty lame,” he said. He had enough explosives for one pressure cooker, he said, to “spread you from here to Owatonna, basically.”
He’d planned to put one pressure cooker inside a recycling bin and detonate it at the second lunch shift, when a lot of students were around. He would detonate a second bomb, he said, when students were fleeing. Then he would throw Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs, and “when the SWAT comes I would destroy myself,” he said.
LaDue said he’d started thinking about his specific plan more than a year earlier and detailing it in a notebook he kept locked in his room.
Bombs and ammunition
LaDue told investigators that counselors at school never suspected he was mentally ill. Nor did his parents or other family members, according to affidavits of detectives in the case also released Tuesday.
Jodi Kubat, LaDue’s manager at the Hy-Vee, described him as a “quiet and respectful kid,” who used to hang around the store when he wasn’t working. Once, she said, another cashier found him standing alone in a darkened room at the store, at 10 p.m. on a night he wasn’t working.
Police were tipped off to LaDue in late April after a 911 caller thought someone was breaking into the MiniMax Storage Units in Waseca. When police arrived, unit #129 looked more like a living space than a storage unit, with furniture and lanterns, the affidavits said.
LaDue’s desktop computer was running when officers searched his bedroom. A search of the “favorites” and his recent search history showed a string of sites with instructions on bombmaking and other sites where he had purchased chemicals to manufacture explosive devices, police said.
LaDue’s uncle John Leslie LaDue seemed dumbfounded by the charges. “You know, I’m not a religious man, but I’m telling you, I keep praying that somebody’s gonna find a god damn brain tumor in his head,” he told investigators. “I want an explanation. … I want to know, what, where was this fork in the road? What, what, what happened?”