Students stabbed at Countryside High School picked at random, Clearwater police say

The suspect, a 14-year-old student at the school, had a manifesto and “was intent on killing people,” Clearwater Police Chief Eric Gandy said Friday.
Clearwater Police Chief Eric Gandy speaks during a news conference Friday in Clearwater. Gandy provided more information about the stabbing of two students Thursday at Countryside High School.
Clearwater Police Chief Eric Gandy speaks during a news conference Friday in Clearwater. Gandy provided more information about the stabbing of two students Thursday at Countryside High School. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Sept. 1|Updated Sept. 1

The 14-year-old boy accused of stabbing two students at Countryside High School on Thursday chose them at random and intended to attack others, Clearwater Police Chief Eric Gandy said Friday.

“This was a lone suspect who conducted an intentional and targeted act,” he said during an afternoon news conference. “This individual idolized serial killers, domestic terrorists, hated humanity and wanted recognition for this incident.”

The Tampa Bay Times is not naming the teen.

Among the evidence collected by investigators is the suspect’s handwritten manifesto, which showed he “was intent on killing people,” Gandy said.

He said the first person to be attacked was a 14-year-old boy, who was stabbed in the neck as he walked past the suspect. The teen then stabbed a 16-year-old boy in the chest and abdomen.

“Other students began to notice what happened, and a friend of victim No. 2 briefly took chase of the suspect,” Gandy said. “Upon realizing he was armed with a knife, he approached our SROs.”

One of the school resource officers then chased the teen and “challenged him at gunpoint,” according to the police chief.

“While he was doing this, other students jumped into action. They began applying pressure to the victims’ wounds,” Gandy said. Faculty also rendered aid.

Additional school resource officers, Clearwater police officers and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the school following the stabbings, he said. After the suspect was taken into custody, they joined efforts to help the injured students until they could be taken to area hospitals.

The 14-year-old was taken to All Children’s Hospital, where the ninth grader was treated and later released. The 16-year-old underwent surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital Thursday night and is in the intensive care unit, according to Gandy, who said the 11th grader is in stable condition.

The determination that the suspect acted alone is based on the information they have so far, he said, but investigators still are going through the evidence collected, such as the manifesto and his electronic devices. They also have reached out to authorities in other jurisdictions where the teen lived previously.

“The question that is always asked is, ‘Did we miss anything? Were there indicators? Were there signs?’ That takes a great deal of time and effort to sift through it and make that determination,” Gandy said.

He said there likely were hundreds of students in the area where the two teens were stabbed, and witnesses still are being identified and interviewed. The department also plans to “reach out to those who acted heroically.”

Mental health services were available for students and staff at the school Friday.

The police chief said he read a few passages in the suspect’s manifesto and found them “troubling.” The teen was questioned at department headquarters Thursday.

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“I can only say that his response to our seasoned investigators was surprising to them — at the callousness with which he undertook this,” Gandy said.

Thursday night, police announced the 14-year-old boy would face two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Gandy said whether he would be charged as an adult is pending, and other charges are possible as the investigation progresses.