Since Jared Cano's Aug. 17 arrest for allegedly plotting to bomb Freedom High School in Tampa, Fla., a series of groups have cropped up on Facebook in support of the 17-year-old, including "Save Jared Cano" and "Support Jared Cano."
The largest by far is the "Free Jared Cano" group, with more than 700 "likes" on the evening of Aug. 18. Many of the comments on the page are critical of Cano's detailed plan to kill two school officials and 30 students with bombs on the first day of school next Tuesday.
Nevertheless, the Tampa Police Department is aware of the growing online community, and the dozens of commenters who support Cano -- and law enforcement is concerned it could indicate possible copycat offenders.
"My understanding is that folks that were responding on a Facebook page, supporting his position, they weren't seeing the gravity of his situation," said Maj. John Newman of the Tampa Police Department. "The investigation, with exception of arrest, is far from complete. We want to make sure he was operating by himself and there are no copycats out there. We're looking at every possible lead."
Jay Reeve, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Florida State University, said a Facebook page glamorizing or popularizing Cano's actions could increase the possibility of copycats, similar to the way Cano was attempting to replicate the efforts of Columbine High School shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
"I think there could be some serious consequences to that depiction of Jarod as someone who did something who garnered attention from peers," Reeve said. "You could predict that someone is going to emulate that."
Cano's History of Violence
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor told reporters Wednesday that investigators recovered bomb-making material from Cano's home, including fuses, timers, shrapnel, accelerant and plastic tubing. No firearms were found in his family's apartment, police said.
They also found a manifesto that detailed minute-by-minute plans for the purported attack, including specifications about where he apparently planned to place bomb in Freedom High School, from which he had been expelled in March 2010.
Police said Cano's manifesto specified his goal of surpassing the number of students who were killed and injured during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, in which 12 students and one teacher were killed and another 24 were wounded.
He has since been charged with threatening to throw, project, place or discharge a destructive device. He also faces charges for possession of bomb-making materials, cultivation of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.
Tampa Police said that they had "red-flagged" Cano since his first run-in with the law in 2007, when he was arrested for breaking and entering into a vehicle.
Since then, Maj. Newman said, that they had performed juvenile street checks on Cano to make sure he was in compliance with home-detention orders he received for previous charges. As recently as this summer, police documented four encounters with Cano when he was found loitering in parking lots late at night. But after that, local police had eased off his trail.
"When this event occurred, [Cano] was no longer under any sanctions and we weren't mandated to check on him," Newman said. "Friends knew he was troubled and had girlfriend issues, but that doesn't really rise to level of law enforcement involvement."
Facebook Should Be Monitored
Still, the contents of Cano's Facebook page included quotes such as, "lessons not learned in blood are soon forgotten," posts about drug-use, including, "i love me some weed haha," and photographs of Cano wielding a machete and swigging alcohol, leading some critics to say authority figures may have overlooked cries for help.
"There's no question in my mind that there was a cry for help involved here ... between the discussions of Columbine, the postings on his Facebook page, and some of the history that we've seen with this individual," Reeve said. "One of the things we know from other cases is [that] usually there are some tells or signs, and there are definitely some here … that would be suggestive to friends or family that there is something deeply wrong going on."
In certain cases, Reeve said, parents should monitor their children's Facebook pages.
"I think Facebook should be taken very seriously," he said. "The way that adolescents vent needs to be paid a lot of attention and needs to be taken very seriously by school and by family."
Cano lives in a Tampa with his mother, Michelle Cano, a math teacher at Riverview High School in Riverview, Fla. Police said that she claimed complete ignorance about her son's alleged plot and was unaware of any bomb-building materials in his bedroom.
Cano's former girlfriend, Nicolette French, said that Cano's father, Alexander Luna Cano III, who was divorced from his mother, had not lived with the family for many years and that the youngster had not been in communication with his father.
The suspect's father also has a criminal record, including a 2001 arrest for assault with intention to commit sexual battery and previous domestic violence offenses, though it was unclear what became of the charges.
Reeve said that the onus is on the family and community to try to reach out to kids who make cries for help. In Cano's case, an anonymous call into Tampa Police Department reported that Cano was plotting to bomb the school and thwarted his attempts to do so. The tipster's identity has been kept confidential, but that person was praised by police as a "hero."
"It's important that this was stopped before it happened because the other message that it sends out to potential copycats is that this sort of behavior doesn't end up with you going out in blaze of glory," Reeve said. "It ends up with you getting arrested."