RIVERHEAD, N.Y. – RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (AP) — A teenager plotted with another to pull off a Columbine-style attack on his former high school, authorities on New York's Long Island said Tuesday — the second time in three years he has been accused of such a plot.
Christopher Franko, who turned 18 on Tuesday, was ordered held without bail after his court-appointed attorney entered a not guilty plea to felony conspiracy. Franko and Dana Saltzman, 16, were arrested in early May on misdemeanor conspiracy, but a grand jury voted to upgrade the charges.
The teens were plotting to attack Connetquot High School this Thursday with shotguns and explosives, prosecutors said. Their plan was to kill security guards outside of the school, then go inside and shoot as many students as possible, Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock said. Once police arrived at the school, the pair planned to fire at officers before ultimately killing themselves, the prosecutor added.
Kurtzrock added that Franko had diagrams of the school and they intended to go to locations "where they knew a lot of students congregated for the purpose of killing as many students as possible."
Their plot was thwarted in part when their attempts to purchase a shotgun at a local sporting goods store were rejected because neither teen was 18. Prosecutors say Franko intended to return to the store on Tuesday to make the purchase.
Kurtzrock said he could not explain a motive, other than Franko had apparently been teased by classmates — a slight he never forgot.
"He's definitely a danger," Kurtzrock said, adding that the case is "chillingly similar" to Franko's arrest in 2007 as a juvenile on charges of plotting to attack the school.
That case was handled in Family Court; Franko left Connetquot High School and graduated from a special-education program where he met Saltzman, who is still a student.
She is expected to be arraigned June 17 on the same felony conspiracy count. Her attorney, Cesar Galarza, said she intended to plead not guilty. "This was all his doing," Galarza said. "He basically tried to take a 16-year-old and get her to carry out his plan, which she never intended to carry out."
The prosecutor noted that had Franko remained at the school, he would have been a graduating senior this month. "This was really his last opportunity to get all of these kids in the same place at the same time," Kurtzrock said.
Although Franko was ordered held without bail, Suffolk County Judge Stephen Braslow issued restraining orders barring the teen from contacting anyone associated with the school.
"The school has been watching Christopher since prior to the first incident," Connetquot Superintendent Alan Groveman said. "We remain concerned about the student's anger toward students and staff." He added that despite Franko's incarceration, security staff, administrators and others have been provided with a photograph of the teenager as a precaution.
"The most disturbing part of this is the potential danger to students and staff. It's hard to be 100 percent perfect," Groveman said. "To hear that students and staff have been targeted is really disturbing."
A court-appointed attorney from Legal Aid, John Schick, entered the not guilty plea on behalf of Franko. He said he had only been assigned to the case on Tuesday and needed to research the allegations further.
"Quite obviously there may be quite a few extenuating circumstances that could surface," he told Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen Braslow.
If convicted, Franko could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.