By Sarah Dewberry, CNN
(CNN) — Authorities say they thwarted a planned high school shooting after the recent arrests of three teenagers in north Florida.
Deputies were alerted to text messages that mentioned two lists targeting multiple students at Creekside High School, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.
The suspects had one “hit list” of students they “wanted to physically harm” and another “lethal hit list” of students they wanted to kill, the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post. The school in St. Johns is about 25 miles south of Jacksonville.
The text messages also included pictures of students the suspects planned on targeting with their faces circled, aerial photos of the high school and firearms they planned to use, the sheriff’s office said.
Another student alerted authorities to the plot, according to arrest reports. The arrest reports say the group of teens formed “due to being being bullied by other students” and they tried to recruit others.
The arrest reports do not state whether the teens had access to firearms but include text messages they sent to one another stating plans to use an AK-47. CNN was unable to find whether the teens had any legal representation.
St. Johns County Schools Superintendent Tim Forson applauded the quick work and collaboration between the school district and authorities. He added the school would be moving forward with consequences of its own, which could include expulsion or the students being placed in an alternative school.
“We encourage students to speak up if they see something that concerns them, and this situation is a perfect example,” Forson said in a statement.
The sheriff’s office says the three teens, ages 14 and 15, are facing charges of written threats to kill or do bodily harm and unlawful use of a two-way communications device. CNN is not releasing the teens’ names because they are being charged as juveniles.
“Nothing is more important to me than the safety of our children, and this is another example of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office commitment to protect the more than 50,000 students who attend classes on a daily basis,” Sheriff Rob Hardwick said in the department’s Facebook post. “I am proud of the youth services deputies assigned to this investigation, who acted quickly on the information that was provided and prevented a potential tragedy.”
News of the foiled plot comes as school shootings continue to mount. As of October 3, 58 school shootings nationwide have occurred, according to a CNN report.
According to federal data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics, fatalities at schools due to gun violence doubled during the 2021-22 academic school year compared to the previous school year.
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