5 Kan. students face charges in alleged plot on Columbine date
RIVERTON, Kan. ” Five teenage boys fully intended to go on a shooting spree at their high school but were stopped after one of them discussed the plot on a Web site, law enforcement and school officials said.
The boys, ranging in age from 16 to 18, were arrested Thursday, the anniversary of the Columbine massacre, just hours before they planned to shoot fellow students and school employees, authorities said.
“What the resounding theme is: They were actually going to do this,” Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Norman said.
The teens planned to wear black trench coats and disable the school’s camera system before starting the attack between noon and 1 p.m. Thursday, Norman said. Sheriff’s deputies found guns, ammunition, knives and coded messages in the bedroom of one suspect and documents about firearms and references to Armageddon in two suspects’ school lockers.
Apparently, they had been plotting since the beginning of the school year. Norman said school officials began investigating Tuesday after learning a threatening message had been posted on MySpace.com.
“The message, it was brief, but it stated that there was going to be a shooting at the Riverton school and that people should wear bulletproof vests and flak jackets,” Norman said.
It also discussed the significance of April 20 as Adolf Hitler’s birthday and the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School attack in Colorado, in which two students wearing trench coats killed 13 people before committing suicide.
School officials identified the student who posted the message and talked to several of his friends, he said.
But Riverton school district Superintendent David Walters said the significance of the threat did not become clear until Wednesday night, after a woman in North Carolina who had chatted with one of the suspects on Myspace.com notified authorities there would be about a dozen potential victims, at least one of them a staff member.
Riverton student Michaela Ferneau said Friday she had heard she was one of the targets.
Back in January, one of the teen suspects had talked about Columbine, but “we thought he was joking because he was always joking about stuff like that,” Ferneau told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday.
“I guess I told on them, apparently, when I didn’t know I did,” she said. “It’s kind of scary to know that people from a little town like this would even try anything like that.”
Ferneau and other students described the teen as a class clown who was often in trouble with the teachers.
He was an “oddball,” student Trenton Berry told ABC. “Everybody picked on him and everything.”
Norman also mentioned bullying and said investigators had learned the suspects liked violent video games.
Four of the suspects were arrested at their homes Thursday; the fifth was taken into custody at the school.
The suspects, who were not immediately identified, were expected to appear in court Friday, when charges are likely to be announced, said Attorney General Phill Kline, whose office took over the prosecution at the request of the county attorney.
The four younger than 18 were being held Thursday at a juvenile detention center in Girard. The 18-year-old was in the Cherokee County Jail. No decision has been made on whether to charge the four juveniles as adults, Kline said.
Officials assured the community that the 270 or so students at Riverton High School were safe and school would continue as normal Friday.
MySpace.com ” a social networking hub with more 72 million members ” released a statement declining to discuss the case because of the investigation, adding that it has provided users with mechanisms to report inappropriate content.
Barbara Gibson, a 17-year-old junior at the high school, said her classmates didn’t seem too bothered by the threat.
“A lot of people just talked about it,” she said. “But there wasn’t much reaction.”
Riverton is a small community of about 600 people along what once was the famed Route 66 in southeast Kansas, near the Oklahoma and Missouri borders.
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