Foiled plot, or teenage fiction?

Collin McKenzie-Gude
Collin McKenzie-Gude (Courtesy Of Montgomery County Police Department - Courtesy Of Montgomery County Police Department)
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By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 7, 2010

The arsenal in his bedroom. Attack plans mapped on a computer. A friend claiming the teenager was plotting to kill Barack Obama.

For investigators in Montgomery County, everything pointed to an obvious question: In an era of mass shooters, had they found one before it was too late?

"I suppose they thought I had mental issues. I certainly do not," said the teenager, Collin McKenzie-Gude, who is now 20, speaking at the Montgomery jail this past fall in his first interview since his arrest made national news in summer 2008.

Back then, he had just graduated with honors from St. John's College High School in Washington, where he was captain of the ROTC target-shooting team. He was four weeks from beginning classes at American University and had aspirations to join the State Department's police force to guard embassies overseas.

"I thought that that would be a really good way to protect my country," McKenzie-Gude said. "Being on the front lines of preventing terrorist attacks."

Now, as the case draws to a close with McKenzie-Gude's federal sentencing scheduled for Thursday, contrasts are sharpening.

McKenzie-Gude pleaded guilty to storing bomb-making materials in his bedroom closets. He also pleaded guilty to attempted carjacking, stemming from his actions July 29, 2008, after learning that police were about to search his room. He went to a shopping center, knocked to the ground a 78-year-old man who had two artificial hips and tried to steal his car. Police said the incident was part of a short-lived plan to flee the area.

Prosecutors plan to say in court that McKenzie-Gude was legitimately dangerous and that he should spend at least 6 1/2 more years behind bars, based in part on what they say motivated him to collect the bomb-making materials: a plot to kill Obama.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, prosecutors say, McKenzie-Gude had come to despise Obama's views on gun control and plotted to use homemade explosives to halt the candidate's convoy, possibly on Interstate 270, and take him out with a high-powered rifle he kept in a gun safe near his dresser.

He had the firepower to launch an attack. Police found hundreds of rounds of ammunition, including armor-piercing bullets, three semiautomatic rifles, more than 50 pounds of chemicals, switches, timers and a document with instructions on how to kill someone at 200 meters.

On order, but not delivered, was a two-pound shipment of the key reagent used to make PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate), the same material carried by the suspect in the attempted Christmas bombing on a Detroit-bound plane, federal prosecutors said.

But McKenzie-Gude has never been charged with planning to shoot or kill anyone, and prosecutors say they don't know whether he would have carried out the plot.

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