SAN JOSE — The community college student accused of assembling an arsenal of guns and explosives in his room and plotting a mass killing at his school pleaded not guilty Thursday to 122 charges.
“Mr. DeGuzman has merely an innocent fascination with the items that were seized,” defense attorney Craig Wormley said.
Al DeGuzman, 19, of San Jose, showed no emotion and said nothing as he was arraigned in Santa Clara County Superior Court on charges of possessing weapons and explosives, and possessing them with the intent to injure a person or personal property.
If convicted, the De Anza College student, who friends thought would one day be an engineer, could face up to 108 years in prison.
His father, Leonardo DeGuzman, and two sisters, sat quietly in the audience during the brief proceeding.
Police found dozens of explosives and weapons in DeGuzman’s room of his parents’ San Jose home on Monday, only hours before police say DeGuzman allegedly planned to start planting bombs at his school.
Authorities believe DeGuzman began planning the attack two years ago and was intent on carrying it out Tuesday.
“People fantasize — they don’t go out and collect the material to build 60 bombs. That’s beyond fantasy,” said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Lane Liroff.
“Our theory is that there was going to be a massacre,” Assistant District Attorney Karyn Sinunu said as a criminal complaint was filed Thursday morning against DeGuzman. “And he has to be responsible for every weapon he made.”
Police have characterized DeGuzman as an angry individual brimming with hate and a fascination with the deadly 1999 Columbine High School massacre.
Signs of a troubled teen-ager emerged this week after police arrested DeGuzman for allegedly assembling the guns and weapons and plotting a massacre.
Wormley called authorities’ depiction of a suspected ’Columbine-style’ planned attack “a huge leap and rush to judgment of a man who has no prior criminal history whatsoever.”
Former De Anza College history instructor Eloy Zarate remembers nothing unusual about the student, although he is starting to understand why DeGuzman dropped out of his class last fall.
“I just found out he was ranting about me on his Web site. This was apparently after I wrote a long critique of his paper,” Zarate said.
That Web site was one of many items police say indicated DeGuzman was full of hate.
Writings on two Web sites police have attributed to DeGuzman also describe how to make a pipe bomb and other explosives. One page is titled “Killing People (With A Bomb), The Non-Scientific Way,” and detailed a “lo-tech bomb that will kill at least a hundred people!”
The bomb-making items listed on that Web page are similar to what authorities found this week in DeGuzman’s bedroom, according to police reports.
Wormley disagreed with authorities about DeGuzman’s level of hatred.
“That’s an absolute falsehood. There are many people he cared about and loved,” Wormley said. “Both his parents are in an extreme state of shock.”
On Thursday, a bomb threat at Santa Clara University temporarily forced the evacuation of some buildings on the campus. Police, who called the threat a hoax, said they didn’t know if there was a connection to the De Anza incident.
The plot to blow up De Anza, just across the San Jose border in Cupertino, unraveled Monday night when a photo lab clerk called police after developing pictures of DeGuzman posing with the alleged arsenal.
Amid the 35 pipe bombs and 25 Molotov cocktails stashed under clothes and in duffel bags in DeGuzman’s messy bedroom, investigators found magazine articles about the Columbine killers, writings worshipping them and pictures of them on the wall, Sgt. Steve Dixon said.
They also found detailed plans, including positions and corners at the school where bombs could be placed and ways to distract police.
“He was going to kill as many people as possible before he died,” Dixon said. “He seemed to think the more people he killed, the better it’d be, the more media attention.”
While a specific motive remained unclear, police said DeGuzman allegedly planned to kill fellow students in the school’s cafeteria and library, modeling the attack after the one in Littleton, Colo. In that incident, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people and wounded 23 others before committing suicide.
“Eric Harris is God,” DeGuzman allegedly proclaimed on one Web site. “He’s my savior.”
DeGuzman’s arrest forced De Anza to shut down Tuesday. The school reopened Wednesday after a daylong search turned up nothing suspicious, and police said they had determined no one else was involved in the plot.
“There was nothing where you’d think he’d be planning something like that,” Zarate said in recalling DeGuzman’s behavior in class. “But who is that kind of person?”