Derek Shrout, 17, was released Monday afternoon from Russell County Jail on a $75,000 bond after he was arrested for allegedly planning to use homemade explosives in a terrorist attack on fellow students at Russell County High School in Seale, Ala.
Judge Albert Johnson set the following conditions for Shrout: He must remain at home; wear a GPS locator bracelet on his ankle; refrain from initiating contact with anyone connected to the school; and be monitored by a parent while on the Internet.
Johnson scheduled Shrout’s preliminary hearing for Feb. 12 at 9 a.m.
Shrout’s hands and ankles were chained as deputies escorted him into the courtroom Monday. He made no comment during his bond hearing. His attorney, Jeremy Armstrong, entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.
After the hearing, Shrout’s family members declined comment. Armstrong said the case against Shrout is an overreaction in the wake of last month’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“Our position is that our client had no intention to harm anybody,” Armstrong said.
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said Sunday a search of Shrout’s home Friday found about a couple dozen small tobacco cans and two large cans, all with holes drilled in them and containing pellets.
He said other ingredients to complete the small bombs — such as black powder, butane and fuses — were not found.
Taylor said the devices were just “a step or two away from being ready to explode.” Shrout described the bombs he was making in a journal, Taylor said, and, if completed the way Shrout described, the bombs would have blown up.
“It would have been serious,” Taylor said.
A teacher found the journal, determined it belonged to Shrout and gave it to an administrator who got it to School Resource Officer Tommy Morrison, one of Taylor’s deputies. He recognized the potential for danger, and Shrout was brought in for questioning, Taylor said.
Taylor said Shrout claimed the writing in the journal to be fictitious, but Shrout’s parents, whom Taylor called “very cooperative,” allowed a search of the house and the bomb materials were located.
Russell County Sheriff’s Deputy David Webster arrested Shrout on Friday evening in the department’s headquarters and charged him with first-degree attempted assault. It is Shrout’s first arrest, according to the report. The report also shows that Shrout lives on Pope Street in Fort Mitchell, Ala., and was born in Manassas, Va.
Shrout admitted to being a white supremacist, according to authorities. “He has a lot of pent-up anger toward blacks,” Taylor said.
Russell County junior Jessica Watkins said that Shrout has the reputation of being a racist.
Although he is a senior, Shrout is in Watkins’ history class this year to make up credits after transferring from out of state with his military family in October, she said. Watkins sat in Shrout’s seat Monday and said she was horrified by what she saw written on the desk.
“It said, ‘white power’ with the F-word, and it was covered in Nazi symbols,” Watkins said.
The teacher tried to scrub it off, she said, but couldn’t because it was in permanent marker. Shrout often would holler “white power” and make a “W” sign with his fingers and hold it to his chest, Watkins said. “But I always thought he was joking around,” she said.
Watkins said she heard that the Hispanic and black students mentioned as targets in Shrout’s journal were in her history class. “I teared up when I found out,” she said. “That was our lives he was going for.”
Shrout was involved in JROTC and often wore camouflage and boots, but he also has a soft side, Watkins said. Shrout helped Watkins study in class. “He was always so quiet and sweet,” she said.
Most puzzling to Watkins, she said, is that Shrout would use the N-word and other racial slurs, but a black student was considered his best friend.
— Staff writer Larry Gierer contributed to this report.