ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) — A Utah teenager accused of trying to blow up a homemade backpack bomb after looking at Islamic State propaganda online had been bullied and didn’t understand the severity of his actions, a psychologist testified in his court trial Wednesday.
Clinical psychologist Tim Kockler said the teen may have wanted to cause the same kind of fear at school that he had experienced himself.
The 16-year-old “experienced a lifetime history of bullying,” Kockler said, according to the Spectrum newspaper in St. George.
Kockler said he had diagnosed the teen as high-functioning on the autism spectrum and having borderline intellectual functioning, which affected his ability to understand the consequences of his actions on other people.
“There’s a disconnect between his reality and what’s going on presently,” Kockler said.
The Associated Press is not naming the defendant because he’s a minor.
He was charged with attempted murder and other counts after authorities found the smoking but inert backpack at a high school in the southern Utah city of St. George in March.
He told police in an interview recorded the day the backpack was found that he tried to blow it up to cause fear.
“They’re going to think I’m crazy,” he said in a portion of the video shown in court Wednesday. A detective had requested that the teenager write down what happened that day.
In footage of the interview previously shown in court, the teenager had said he expected the bomb to go off and didn’t see anything bad about death.
The teen is also accused of cutting up an American flag and replacing it with a spray-painted flag resembling that of the Islamic State at a different high school in the nearby town of Hurricane in February. He also spray-painted words including “ISIS” on a wall at that school, authorities said.
Prosecutors want to try the teenager as an adult, but the defense has fought the effort.