A former Fort Bliss soldier suspected of planning to bomb multiple high-profile targets around the U.S. was once on the “hit list” of a teenager who tried to blow up his high school in South Carolina.
Federal authorities late Wednesday indicted Jarrett William Smith, 24, with sharing bomb-making instructions online. Officials said he also discussed the possible bombing of a media organization and former El Paso congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
Smith was a private first class infantry soldier from South Carolina. He enlisted in 2017 and was stationed at El Paso’s Fort Bliss before being transferred over the summer to Fort Riley in Kansas.
A criminal complaint alleges that Smith discussed possibly killing O’Rourke and described how to build a bomb that could be triggered by calling a cellphone. It said he posted on Facebook that he was interested in traveling to Ukraine to fight with a paramilitary group.
Court papers said Smith also suggested targeting a major news network with a car bomb. CNN later reported that their Atlanta headquarters was Smith’s intended target.
In an interview before his arrest, Smith told investigators he knew how to make improvised explosives devices and that he routinely provided instruction on building them. He stated he did this to cause “chaos.”
Nine years ago, however, Smith was on the other end of a bomb plot.
In September 2010, 14-year-old Christian Helms brought a gun and other weapons to Socastee High School in South Carolina, firing a shot at the school resource officer as the officer tried to wrestle his gun away.
Helms was also discovered to have brought pipe bombs to school, and had a list of 13 students who were his intended targets.
Jarrett Smith was one of them.
In August 2011, Smith and his father did an interview with the ABC affiliate station there about the shooting and his potential killer.
“I think it’s ridiculous that he would get such a little amount of time for such a big thing,” Smith said after Helms was sentenced to six years in prison. “I pretty much don’t know anything about him and here he is trying to take me out.”
During his interview, the rising sophomore spoke about being bullied frequently for a cleft lip. At the time, his inclusion on Helms’ hit list was considered a surprise, as Helms was believed to be targeting the school’s popular students after being bullied himself.
Back then, Smith told our reporter he was included simply because Helms didn’t like him.
A Horry County School District spokeswoman confirmed that Smith transferred to Carolina Forest High School for the remainder of his high school career and graduated in 2014. She said Smith was the only person of his name in that graduating class.
A woman whose daughter went to high school with Smith said that she remembered a scar on his upper lip around the time he graduated and that he had joined the military.
Smith’s neighbors remembered the teenager was frequently picked on even after transferring schools.
When an ABC affiliate crew pulled up to Smith’s parents’ house after his arrest, a sign supporting the U.S. Army could be seen in the front yard. The elder Smith removed the sign after arriving home from work and declined to speak to reporters gathered outside.
In the 2011 interview, both father and son said they were afraid of Helms and wondered what he would be like following his release from prison.
“I expect him to come out more brutal, more vicious, and more violent than he went in,” Jarrett said.
His father had promised they’d protect themselves with “everything we have at our disposal.”
Following Smith’s arrest last Saturday, neighbors said they were “shocked” about the allegations against Jarrett and worried about his parents.
“I’m sure they’re hurt. I’m sure they’re a little embarrassed,” one woman said.
If convicted of the charges against him, Smith could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Copyright 2016 KVIA