Jared Cano was arrested for planning a rampage attack at his former school that he hoped would result in more deaths than the attack at Columbine High School. A friend of Cano's has said that the youth was just venting his anger when he wrote about wanting to kill people. There's already a Facebook page calling for him to be set free. The situation with Cano raises the question of how can it be determined that somebody really intends to commit murder?
There is no way to predict with perfect accuracy that the person who writes about murder would have actually committed murder, but there are guidelines for assessing the situation. For example, the presence of attack-related behavior increases the potential risk of violence. If Cano had just written about hating his school, that would appear to be venting. If he told a friend that sometimes he felt like killing somebody or had fantasies of blowing up the school, that might just be venting, too.
In this case, however, Cano had gone beyond just having thoughts or fantasies of violence. He wrote a detailed plan for the sequence of events starting at 5:00 am on August 23. He drew schematic diagrams of the school, showing the layout of the rooms and where he intended to put bombs. In addition, he had gone beyond planning a strategy and had obtained the materials he needed for the attack, including fuses, timers, plastic tubing, shrapnel, and more. This constitutes a high level of attack-related behavior that indicates a severe risk of imminent violence.
Beyond the question of the likelihood of his carrying out the attack, this incident poses the question: what type of person would do such a thing? Students who commit murderous rampages at their schools (or former schools) typically fall into one of three categories: psychopathic, psychotic, or traumatized (see Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters).
With only preliminary information available, it is difficult to say what category Cano might fit. There are no reports of psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions; thus, he does not appear to belong in the psychotic category.
Cano's family life most resembles the lives of traumatized school shooters, who typically come from broken homes and have parents with criminal histories. Cano's parents divorced when he was three, and his father has a significant criminal history and on several occasions spent time in jail. There are no reports, however, that Cano had been abused. Given that his father was arrested for stalking, domestic battery, and intent to commit sexual battery, it would not be surprising if Cano had been the victim of abuse or a witness of domestic violence. Thus, he may well have experienced trauma.
It is also possible that Cano has psychopathic features, such as a disregard for law and morality, a lack of conscience and empathy, and a sadistic streak that gets a thrill from hurting or killing others. He does have a criminal history involving possession of marijuana, carrying a concealed weapon (a taser), and breaking into someone's home and stealing a gun. By themselves, these actions do not indicate psychopathic personality features, however. Many traumatized youths become involved with drugs and/or crime without having psychopathic traits.
At this point, there is too little information for understanding Cano's actions. The actions themselves, however, suggest that he intended to commit murder.