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Troubled teen pleads to weapons charges

The juvenile court committed the 15-year-old Clearwater High School student found with stockpile of weapons indefinitely.

By CRAIG PITTMAN
Published February 18, 2006


A 15-year-old Clearwater High School student who had a stockpile of weapons and a tape of the Columbine High School massacre entered a plea to weapons charges in juvenile court Friday.

As a result, Christopher Rodriguez, whose nickname among his classmates reportedly was "Nazi," has been committed for an indefinite period to a juvenile justice facility in New Port Richey that specializes in teenagers who need mental health counseling.

"They're going to give him the level of attention he'll need to deal with his problems - because he does have some issues," Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said Saturday.

Rodriguez, a slender youth with blond hair, had impressed his teachers as a smart student who earned good grades and showed proficiency with foreign languages.

He was enrolled in German, algebra, American government, English, science and a leadership course.

"He's a really good kid," said Richard McKyton, the St. Petersburg attorney who represented Rodriguez in court Friday.

He would not reveal the type of plea Rodriguez entered in court, nor discuss any details of the case.

He said Rodriguez has no prior arrests, and "comes from a good family. They care an awful lot about him."

Two comments the teenager made to a teacher led to him being investigated by Clearwater police and even the Secret Service. Rodriguez told a teacher he always carried a knife. And he asked, "Why do you sit me next to people that I want to shoot?"

So an assistant principal and School Resource Officer Thomas Dawe escorted Rodriguez to the office on Jan. 18 and asked if he had any weapons. Rodriguez reached into his duffel bag and pulled out brass knuckles. Dawe also found a ski mask.

A manila folder contained paper and several class assignments. One sheet of paper had been divided into two columns. One was titled "Likes," the other "Dislikes."

Beneath the first column, the paper was blank.

Beneath the second heading, he had written a long list of racial and ethnic groups.

"There weren't too many people he didn't hate," Bartlett said.

Clearwater police went to his home at S Pegasus Avenue, where he lives with his grandfather, Charles Rodriguez, who acts as his guardian.

They found the teenager had assembled a small arsenal, including a Russian SKS semiautomatic rifle and a .22-caliber derringer with its serial number filed off, police said. The pistol had been fitted for a homemade silencer.

They also confiscated his computer, which had numerous files from white supremacist Web sites and a cache of video files showing real-life executions. He also had a copy of the surveillance tape showing Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shooting in the Columbine High cafeteria in 1999.

One file on his computer drew the Secret Service into the investigation. It was an image showing President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney with targets and swastikas over their heads.

However, McKyton pointed out, "nobody was harmed. Nobody was touched."

Rodriguez's grandfather could not be reached for comment Saturday.

As a result of the plea worked out between McKyton and prosecutor Joe Walker, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Marion Fleming ordered Rodriguez sent to the Mandala Adolescent Treatment Center, a secure facility which specializes treating teenage boys who need counseling for mental problems.

The New Port Richey facility holds up to 33 boys ages 14-18, who are all required to wear uniforms.

The average length of stay is six to nine months, according to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Times staff writer Jacob Fries contributed to this report.