Six middle school students in a small Alaska town were arrested Saturday on suspicion of plotting to bring guns and knives to school to kill their classmates and faculty.
The students had planned to disable North Pole Middle School’s power and telephone systems, allotting time to kill their victims and escape from North Pole, a town of 1,600 people about 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Police Chief Paul Lindhag said.
The seventh-graders wanted to seek revenge for being picked on by other students, Lindhag said. They also disliked staff and students, he said.
A parent alerted police of rumors of an attack, Lindhag said. He would not elaborate on the case, or what kind of documented evidence led to the arrests.
“These are the ones who had major roles in this,” Lindhag said. “All our information came through our interviews.”
The students could face charges of first-degree conspiracy to commit murder, authorities said.
The alleged plot was the second broken up by police this week. Five Kansas teenagers suspected of planning a shooting rampage at their high school were arrested on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the Columbine massacre.
School officials in Riverton, Kan., learned that a threatening message had been posted on the Internet, authorities said. The boys ages 16 to 18 will stay in custody through the weekend while prosecutors decide whether to file charges, a judge ruled Saturday.
The North Pole boys, whose names were not released, were among 15 students at the school who were suspended after a parent tipped police Monday evening. A child told the parent that rumors were circulating about the alleged plot, which had been postponed from Monday until Tuesday, Lindhag said.
‘Lot of rumors flying around’
The suspended students were identified by officers working with a school safety official. Parents were advised to keep their children away from 500-student campus Tuesday. Lindhag said authorities don’t believe all the suspended students were involved, but that officials were erring on the side of caution.
“There were a lot of rumors flying around,” he said.
The six arrested were taken to the Fairbanks Youth Facility.
Locals are “shocked, saddened and heartbroken about whole situation,” but area schools have policies to deal with such a crisis, said Wayne Gerke, an assistant superintendent with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.
“And we feel very thankful that a student felt they could talk to an adult, and very thankful that the adult had the wisdom to contact the North Pole Police Department,” Gerke said.
The other students remain suspended while the investigation continues, and police will have a presence at the school for the rest of the year, officials said.
“People are people,” Lindhag said. “Something like this can happen anywhere, in a city big or small.”