Published January 13, 2015
A 17-year-old student said he was only doing the right thing when he told authorities his friends were planning a Columbine-like attack on East High School last week.
Matt Atkinson, introduced at a news conference late Wednesday, said he learned about the alleged plot by two students and a former student to attack the school the day before he told authorities.
"Do the right thing. That's all I can say is do the right thing. There's no harm in telling somebody about it," Atkinson said.
He went home, he said, talked to his mother and decided he had to tell authorities.
"I didn't do it for fame," he said. "I had fear for the life of my fellow students and staff at East High School."
Atkinson told Assistant Principal Matt Mineau of the plan on the morning of Sept. 14.
"It's just remarkable what he has done for our school, that he felt connected enough that he could come and tell me what was going on," Mineau said.
Later that day, police arrested students William Cornell and Shawn Sturtz, both 17, and searched their homes, where they found a cache of guns, makeshift bombs and other gear, authorities said. Former student Bradley Netwal, 18, was arrested Friday. All three were in jail Wednesday.
Atkinson, wearing a red T-shirt emblazoned with his school's name, described the three teens as friends and said he came forward in part because he wanted to get them help.
"If it wasn't true ... at least they'd get the help that they needed," he said. "If I didn't go and they were serious, I couldn't live with that on my conscience."
Charges were to be filed on Thursday, said Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski, who was also at the news conference and praised Atkinson for helping avert a "very tragic situation."
Mayor Jim Schmitt said there likely will be some type of "high school hero scholarship" created to honor Atkinson for what he did.
Atkinson, a slightly built, sandy-haired senior, is an officer with the school's chapter of the Future Farmers of America. He said he plans to attend Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College and possibly pursue a career with computers.
When asked whether he considers himself a hero, Atkinson smiled, nodded and said "Kind of."