ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Police said a group of seventh-graders hatched an elaborate plan to cut off power and telephone service to their middle school, slay classmates and faculty with guns and knives, then escape from their small Alaska town.
The arrest Saturday of six students in North Pole, a town of 1,600 people about 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks, marks the nation's second breakup of an alleged Columbine-style school attack this week. Five Kansas teenagers suspected of planning a shooting rampage at their high school were arrested Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the massacre in suburban Colorado.
The Alaskan seventh-graders had been picked on by other students and wanted to seek revenge, Police Chief Paul Lindhag said. They also disliked staff and students, he said.
The students had planned to disable North Pole Middle School's power and telephone systems, allotting time to kill their victims and flee from town, Lindhag 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, who were being held at the Fairbanks Youth Facility, could face charges of first-degree conspiracy to commit murder, authorities said.
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.
"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," said Wayne Gerke, an assistant superintendent with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.
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 officials erred on the side of caution.
"There were a lot of rumors flying around," Lindhag said.
Locals are "shocked, saddened and heartbroken about whole situation," but area schools have policies to deal with such a crisis, 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.
In Riverton, Kan., school officials 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.