Four high school students have been arrested after fellow students overheard them plotting to carry out a massacre at the school.
The four Summerville Union High School boys of Sonora, Calif. had detailed plans that “included names of would-be victims, locations, methods in which the plan was to be carried out,” Tuolumne County Sheriff Jim Mele said Saturday. The targets included students and teachers.
After the boys were caught, student Zach Marquez came forward at a school assembly to applaud the students who made the report.
“Thank you to whoever that individual was that came out and spoke and had the courage to stand up and see what was wrong because basically you saved our lives,” he said.
After school authorities heard about the plot, they called in the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department. Three students were arrested Wednesday. A fourth was taken into custody Friday. Sheriff Mele said there were no other partners in the plot. Mele did not release the names of the suspects.
“They were going to come on campus and shoot and kill as many people as possible at the campus,” Mele said. “It is particularly unsettling when our most precious assets —which are our students, their teachers — are targets for violence.”
“I believe, with all my heart, the reason we were able to stop this was because we have a level of trust within our community,” Mele said. “When you have a level of trust with the law enforcement, your education – we meet monthly, we meet constantly – you can do this.”
According to the sheriff’s office, the students had not yet obtained any weapons.
“(They were) pretty dog-gone close. (Close) enough to keep me up last night, to keep my detectives and lieutenants up last night. There was an event that would be coming up that they specifically talked about,” Mele said. “To talk about specifically what, I don’t want to, but enough to move forward…that we took four children away from their homes in order to protect other children.”
No motive for the planed attack has been released. On Monday, sheriff’s investigators were interviewing the students and adults targets in the plot, to help understand why certain individuals were selected.
“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 fellow students and teachers on school grounds,” said Tuolumne County Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter. “While it is easy to say that would never happen in Tuolumne County, the public and local law enforcement must remain vigilant as they did here. That the suspects are young does not minimize the gravity of the conduct nor the potential for great harm to many people.”