Five teenage boys who allegedly planned to carry out a shooting spree at their Kansas small-town high school were arrested on Thursday – the 7-year anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting spree – just hours after one of them divulged the plot on MySpace.com, law enforcement and school officials said.
“What the resounding theme is: They were actually going to do this,” Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Norman said, as quoted by The Associated Press.
In Riverton, Ks. (pop. about 600), sheriff’s deputies discovered guns, ammunition, knives and coded messages in the bedroom of one suspect and documents about firearms and references to Armageddon in the lockers of two of the others.
The five suspects, – ranging in ages from 16 to 18 – were not immediately identified, but are expected to appear in court Friday, when charges are likely to be announced, said Attorney General Phill Kline.
As they had planned since the beginning of the school year, the five had intended to don black trench coats and disable the school’s camera system before launching their attack between noon and 1 p.m. Thursday, Norman said.
The plan mirrors the Columbine massacre, which claimed 13 people before its two young perpetrators committed suicide. Beside the Columbine anniversary, April 20 also marks the birthday of Adolf Hitler.
“The (MySpace) 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. School officials identified the student who posted the message and talked to several of his friends, he added.
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 about the planned attack.
Those suspects under the age of 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.
Barbara Gibson, a 17-year-old junior at the high school, told AP 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.”