Grant Acord: Why Did a 17-Year-Old Want to Plant 6 Bombs in His High School?


Pipe bombs, drain cleaner bombs, Molotov cocktails, and napalm bombs were recovered from 17-year-old West Albany High School student Grant Acord this week. Acord planned to carry out "a more efficient" Columbine-inspired attack on his high school. The motive is still unknown, but police told Reuters that Acord's plan "was not driven by emotion, [it] was driven by a mission."

And by more efficient, authorities mean he intended to cause more death and destruction.

Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson told reporters that the teen will be charged as an adult for attempted aggravated murder and the possession and production of a destructive device. Acord was arrested based on a tip on Thursday at his father's house in Albany, Oregon, 75 miles south of Portland.

Further searches at his mother's house resulted in the discovery of the bombs, "detailed checklists," planning materials, and a "specific timeline" under floor boards according to the Atlantic Wire.

Police also told reporters that the plans recovered show that the attack was structured so as to be implemented without any prior notice. Haroldson summarized the potentially horrific situation this could have resulted in: "So you have — A) the methodical planning and then — B) I suppose he could get really excited about it and go early."

Acord does not have any history of violence or trouble at school which will trigger the mental health debate. Haroldson referenced this controversial debate surrounding violence, video games, and mental health that was drudged up in the aftermath of Columbine: "In any case that you have a young person that in essence plans to take a video game approach to killing people at school, you have to take a close look at the mental health issues," he said. "And the process will certainly provide for that once he's represented by counsel."

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were reported to have been troubled teens unable to find a healthy outlet for their problems. More recently, James Eagan Holmes' attack on a theater in Aurora, Colorado dressed as the Joker and Adam Lanza's attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School highlighted this problem of mental illness and misdirected violence in our society. 

While gun legislators argue about rights vs. safety, mentally ill people are being stereotyped and neglected. The real failure of society for all these men, and even the Tsarnaev brothers, is a lack of efficient mental health services on top of the uncompromisingly easy access to weapons.

They all were evidently disturbed but experienced a breakdown of their personal narratives that led them to distorted perspectives of finding self-validation through violence.

While we wait to find out what exactly prompted Acord to draw these gruesome plans we should take a moment to recognize the importance of mental illness prevention as a public health issue.

As for the town of Oregon that was spared a horrific catastrophe, Haroldson emphasizes "how lucky we are that there was an intervention ... "When I look at the evidence in the case, I shudder to think of what could have happened here." 

Acord will face appear in public on Tuesday for his next court date.