Classmates and neighbors of a 17-year-old accused of bringing a gun, knives, gasoline and a lighter to Bluffton High School describe an esoteric teen, who wears a suit and tie to class, who won a Shakespeare recitation competition, and whose favorite book is Homer's "The Odyssey."
Wednesday, a bomb squad came to Austen Almeida's house in the Heritage Lakes subdivision after a teacher told administrators Almeida was making odd statements.
Administrators nor police are describing those statements but say the Bluffton High senior was taken to the guidance counselor's office.
Administrators say Almeida admitted to coming to campus armed.
Students told WTOC reporters Almeida is very bright. They say while he may not have been quarterback or prom king, he had friends.
One teenage neighbor, who described himself as Almeida's best friend of 10 years and whose father didn't want him identified, expressed disbelief at the accusations. That teen's father said just yesterday he'd been out mowing the lawn when Almeida offered him a Coke. Neither father nor son say Almeida was behaving any differently than he normally does.
Diego Rivera, 18, has ceramics class with Almeida and saw him in that class Tuesday. Rivera said nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But he didn't describe Almeida as ordinary.
"He was a little bit strange," Rivera said. He was always dressing different, like he would wear tuxedos to school, something you don't see usually. He always had his bottle of water or Gatorade or something, and he would just play with it, throw it around, kick it, do tricks with it. It was pretty cool to see. He was always different."
Almeida is charged with carrying a weapon onto school property, unlawful carrying of a firearm, and disturbing school. His bond hearing is set for 8 a.m. Thursday.
A spokesman for the Beaufort County School District said the teacher who alerted administrators to unusual behavior doesn't want to be identified, that she said she only did what she was trained to do, what any teacher would've done.
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