An alleged school shooting plot, involving the Summerville High School in Tuolumne, California, was thwarted by Tuolumne County Sheriff’s detectives.
Sheriff Jim Mele said that the suspects, students of the high school, intended to “come on campus, and shoot and kill as many people as possible at the campus.” The behavior of three of the students provoked suspicion of the classmates, who identified the suspects to the school administration. The administration, thereby contacted the sheriff’s office on Wednesday. An investigation was subsequently launched – interviews with the suspects, school staff and other students were conducted.
According to Modesto Bee and KCRA, the students confessed to the shooting plot. While the three were arrested Wednesday, a fourth one was detained on Friday on suspicion of conspiracy to commit assault with deadly weapons.
“Detectives located evidence verifying a plot to shoot staff and students at Summerville High School,” Mele said. “The suspects’ plan was very detailed in nature and included names of would-be victims, locations and the methods in which the plan was to be carried out.” He further said, “They were going to come on campus and shoot and kill as many people as possible at the campus.”
The investigation revealed that the students were planning to launch the attack at the upcoming campus event. Their plans were overheard by other students. The sheriff said that the students “noticed suspicious activity, and … they felt uneasy enough to go to staff.” The names of the suspects were not revealed. No weapons were discovered in their possession. The motive for carrying out the attacks has not been disclosed.
Robert Griffith, Summerville Union High School District Superintendent, said, “As each one of them was identified they were removed from campus. Their parents were called.” Griffith further said, “Within two to three minutes, those administrators got up out of their seat, recognizing the severity of the information that they received, and were in the classroom pulling those students out.”
“I can’t imagine getting a phone call that something like that had happened at that school,” Kristin Wilson, parent of a student who attends the school said, as reported by USA Today.
In the past few years, several attacks have reportedly occurred on and around school campuses in California, according to the Los Angeles Times. Elliot Roger, a student of the Santa Barbara City College, went on a killing spree in 2014 that resulted in deaths of six UC Santa Barbara students. The suspect then turned the gun onto himself after engaging in gunfire with the deputies. A year earlier, John Zawahri opened fire through Santa Monica and killed five people. Zawahri was eventually killed by the police.
According to the New York Times, Eric Hovatter, assistant district attorney, said that evidence obtained in the investigation will be looked into and will form the basis for the charges to be filed against the students. “It is clear from past history such as Columbine and Sandy Hook, as well as other recent events in Oregon, that children are willing and capable of planning and carrying out acts of violence against students and teachers on school grounds,” Hovatter said. “While it is easy to say that could never happen in Tuolomne County, the public and local law enforcement must remain vigilant, as they did here.” He added, “That the suspects are young does not minimize the gravity of the conduct nor the potential for great harm to many innocent people.”
Read also: Hurricane Joaquin: ‘Historic, Potentially Life-Threatening’ Rainfall Expected This Weekend