Woman says school attack suspect acted strangelyPublished 10:11am Monday, May 12, 2014
MANKATO — A woman credited with potentially averting a school attack in the southern Minnesota city of Waseca says the suspect acted strangely as he approached a self-storage facility near her apartment.
Chelsie Schellhas told The Free Press of Mankato she watched through her tiny kitchen window as he cut though her backyard to reach the facility on April 29. She said he slogged through calf-deep puddles instead of taking a parallel path on the dry road. She said she then watched him struggle for about 10 minutes to unlock a unit before finally sliding open the door, stepping inside and quickly closing it behind him.
She had her cousin, Katie Harty, who lives downstairs, call police.
“It felt like he was trying to hide himself. Nobody cuts through our backyard. There was no reason he would want to go that way,” Schellhas said.
The two women were concerned he was a homeless person living in the unit or someone secretly cooking up meth.
Police found a 17-year-old in the storage unit, working with bomb-making material by the light of a single lamp. He told police he was planning to kill his family and attack Waseca Junior-Senior High School with guns and bombs, according to court documents.
Schellhas said he appeared unnaturally calm when he exited the unit, seemingly unfazed about being placed in a squad car. Police later said he was armed with a knife and told them he would have killed the officers if he’d brought a gun that night.
A hearing for the teenager is scheduled for Monday. Prosecutors plan to ask to try him as an adult.
Schellhas and Harty both have brothers who attend the school where the attack was to take place. They said they still have lingering fears about what could have happened had they ignored their gut reaction to call police.
“I would have been devastated to say the least,” Schellhas said. “And people wouldn’t have believed us. They would have assumed we were just trying to get attention or something.”
Mayor Roy Srp said it’s difficult to express how much their actions meant to Waseca.
“It’s so commendable. And, it’s so typical of the Waseca citizenry to be watching out for others,” he said.
Srp plans to give the women an official commendation but has to wait until the case is no longer an active investigation.