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Thousands gathered at Pine Trails Park on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 for a candlelight vigil in honor of the 17 victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Nicole Raucheisen/Naples Daily News

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The Broward County Sheriff’s Office, barraged with criticism that officers failed to act on tips and warnings before the Parkland shooting that killed 17, arrested a teenager on a tip he had said he “could do better” in an attack and displayed a weapons collection.

The 16-year-old pointed deputies to a pipe bomb he built after they raided his home in Pompano Beach late Monday night.

Officers also collected what they called a tactical vest and other items.

The boy was charged with felony possession of a destructive device. He was identified by police but is not being identified by the USA TODAY NETWORK - FLORIDA because of his age.

Deputies acted on a tip they received from an online friend of the home-schooled teen after the teen bragged he had a stash of guns and explosives, which he showed the friend in a video chat from his bedroom, according to arrest records.

The charged teen’s father said in an interview that his son never intended to hurt or threaten anyone, describing the comment as “an off-the-cuff joke.”

The pipe bomb was an amateur, makeshift “prop,” the father said, something his son had pieced together with galvanized pipe, a “shoelace fuse” and firework mortars found behind a warehouse.

“He had no intent to go blow up the school,” the father said. “Stevie Wonder could see that this thing was a joke.”  

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The arrest was made Tuesday in the wake of nationwide complaints that Broward deputies failed to address tips and other red flags before Nikolas Cruz allegedly shot 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Reports from social workers, police and others show deputies received indications of Cruz’s violent history, mental illnesses and possession of firearms.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office declined to answer questions about any new initiative or policy to take more decisive action from tips about potential violence. The state attorney’s office said prosecutors haven’t decided yet whether to charge the teen as an adult.

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Monday’s tip came from a fellow gamer on the videogame site Steam.  The gamer told the Boca Raton police that the teen had invited him into a private chat and then showed off an AK-47-style rifle, a Glock-style pistol, a shotgun, a bullet-proof vest with “what appeared to be pipe bombs attached,” a bottle filled with gunpowder and ball bearings, and military-grade ballistic helmets, according to a summary of the tip from an arrest affidavit.

“During this conversation,” the affidavit states, “the recent Parkland School shooting became the topic of conversation and (the teen) stated ‘he could do better.’ ”

When deputies arrived Monday night, the family granted permission to search the house before the teen blurted out, “Let me just say there is a pipe bomb over there and there is gunpowder inside of a duffel bag,” according to the affidavit.

The detectives “recovered the pipe bombs as well as other weapons from the residence,” according to the arrest report.

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The affidavit inventory shows deputies confiscated 6 inches of galvanized pipe, “mortar like shells,” two containers of powder, a tactical vest, a cellphone, a notebook and a laptop from the teen’s bedroom.

“Deputies located in plain view firearms” and the computer they believe the teen used to “obtain material and information from the Internet on the materials needed and the methods to construct a destructive device,” according to the affidavit,

There are no guns listed on the inventory of seized items, and the boy’s father said what looked like weapons were actually replicas and airsoft toys used in games such as paintball. The father said the vest seized by deputies was used by his son in paintball competition.

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He said the bomb squad was there for hours as deputies cordoned off a block of the neighborhood and sent in a robot to search the property. It’s unclear from the arrest report or affidavit whether the pipe bomb was active.

The father said he is concerned about what his son might have downloaded on the computer, citing a previous “passing fascination” with the Columbine shooting. The teen, a natural loner, had retreated more into himself in recent years after dropping out of middle school, the father said.  

The teen’s video game handle on Steam is “ChrisKlebold,” which police said is a reference to the Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, according to the affidavit.

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In recent months, the teen has uploaded several violent videos to his YouTube account. A November video titled “A n g e r” shows found footage and re-enactments of the Columbine shooting, with the "Seinfeld" theme song dubbed over images of students being gunned down in a school hallway.

Another video he posted shows a person in heavy camouflage and gear shooting what appears to be an AK-47 in an empty lot; the video is titled “trip into North Carolina.” Another is titled “death to blacks.”

A December video called “Hue City” shows video game images of soldiers being killed beneath “The Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel. A caption reads “silly gooks.”

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Representatives of Google, which owns YouTube, and Steam did not respond to questions about the team’s accounts with them.

About 4 p.m. Wednesday, YouTube removed the “A n g e r” and "death to blacks" videos from the website for violating the company’s policy on content it considersharmful or dangerous. 

The Pompano Beach teen was involuntarily hospitalized shortly after the arrest under Florida’s Baker Act, and he was in the hospital Thursday under evaluation.

The father said state social workers went to the hospital after an allegation of neglect. The state Department of Children and Families said in an email that it does not have an “open child protection investigation” involving the family.

The father said his son “will look back on this and thank the guy for turning him in because it will be the best thing that’s ever happened to him.”

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