Florida teenager Corey Johnson was arrested this week on charges of first degree murder and attempted murder after the 17-year-old stabbed two children and one adult during a birthday party sleepover.
Investigators said Johnson stabbed and killed 13-year-old Jovanni Sierra, and seriously injured Elaine Simon, 43, and her son, 13-year-old Dane Bancroft. Police said that Johnson committed the acts because of his Muslim faith.
The sleepover attack was prompted by one of the boys idolizing famous people and referring to them as a god, which went against Johnson’s Muslim faith. Johnson also told officials that the boys “made fun of his” Muslim faith. Before the attack, Johnson was reading the Quran from his phone “to give him courage to carry out his intentions,’ according to the affidavit.
Before the fatal knife attack in the Palm Beach Gardens home, authorities said Johnson had already been on the radar of law enforcement, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Jupiter Police, Palm Beach County School District Police and the FBI previously received “intelligence gathering” on Johnson that prompted an investigation into his “alleged violent tendencies,” the Palm Beach Post reported.
Palm Beach County School District Police said that Johnson’s behavior was troubling as early as middle school. Johnson allegedly made anti-Semitic and anti-homosexual statements to students at school, and he also said he had similar beliefs to the KKK.
School police admitted that they received information on Johnson and his “violent tendencies,” and that he also had “spoken about inappropriate places to bomb” and “is a White Supremacist.”
When Johnson originally grabbed the attention of law enforcement officials, they investigated him by tracking his social media activity and movements, as well as interviewing members of his family.
Stemming from the efforts in tracking Johnson’s online presence, authorities had even planned to file charges against him for international school threats just a week before the sleepover rampage, according to the report.
Johnson was allegedly connected to several threats made on Instagram in October 2016 to a Catholic High School in England, where authorities say that “up to 100 students were removed from the school fearing some kind of attack.” The FBI originally did not want to charge Johnson because he was a juvenile and “believed a redirection approach would be the most beneficial regarding his conduct.”
In January 2017, several local law enforcement agencies and the FBI met with the staff at Johnson’s Palm Beach Gardens High School to more closely investigate the boy’s behavior. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office received information that Johnson supported ISIS and that he had even reached out to the group online, expressing his desire to join them. A Sheriff’s detective also interviewed Johnson at the time for a mental health assessment and discovered he sympathized with terrorist organizations.
During a meeting with the FBI and local law enforcement in March 2017, Johnson denied any affiliation with ISIS. They advised the teen “to cease all social media activities related to ISIS and any other terrorist organization.”
But by the summer of 2017, the FBI said Johnson returned to making more online posts, which prompted official charges to begin being drawn up.
By February of this year, the FBI said it had all the evidence it required for an assistant U.S. attorney to charge Johnson on probable cause.