Russell County teen pleads guilty in plot to bomb classmates

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comMay 1, 2014 

The Russell County teenager accused last year of plotting to build bombs with which to attack his high school classmates has pleaded guilty and asked for probation.

Court records released this week show Derek Mathew Shrout pleaded guilty to attempted assault in the first degree before Circuit Judge Al Johnson on April 11. His sentencing is set for 9 a.m. July 11 at the Russell County Judicial Center.

Represented by Phenix City attorney Jeremy Armstrong, Shrout is seeking five years' probation and a fine of $2,000, plus $100 to go to the Victim's Compensation Fund, records show.

Prosecutors said Johnson may sentence Shrout, now 19, as the judge sees fit, possibly giving the defendant some time in prison along with probation or a straight prison term.

Shrout was a 17-year-old Russell County High School student when a history teacher in January 2013 found a notebook allegedly detailing his plans to make homemade bombs.

School administrators questioned Shrout and reported the discovery to sheriff's investigators, who searched Shrout's home in Fort Mitchell with his parents' consent.

Sheriff Heath Taylor said the search turned up about two dozen snuff or metal tobacco cans with hard plastic pellets inside and holes drilled through them for fuses, plus two rectangular metal cans about 3 inches tall and wide and 10 inches long. But investigators found no fuses, and no explosive powder nor any other charge that would fuel a blast.

Had the homemade devices been completed as Shrout described in his journal, they could have caused serious injury, the sheriff said. His officers loaded one, inserted a fuse and tested it at a firing range, and it did explode, propelling the pellets like shrapnel, he said.

Authorities said Shrout described himself as a white supremacist. "He has a lot of pent-up anger toward blacks," Taylor said.

A classmate alleged Shrout left the words "white power" and Nazi symbols scrawled on a school desk, and was known to shout "White power!" and form a "W" with his fingers and hold them to his heart.

Arrested Jan. 4, 2013, Shrout initially faced a second charge of "manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction," but court records show he will not be prosecuted for that.

Shrout, who reports showed was born in Manassas, Va., before his family moved to Fort Mitchell, told authorities the writing in his journal was mere fiction. His attorney said Shrout had no intention of harming anyone.

The attorney said authorities overreacted because of the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., where a 20-year-old man killed six adults and 20 students ages 6 to 7.

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