Even when the country is still recovering from the deadly Oregon shooting that killed nine people and injured several others, police in California claimed to have successfully foiled a mass shooting plan by four school students in the northern California town of Tuolumne, according to reports emerging in the media.
The Washington Post reports that all the four students who have been arrested by the local police are male students who had been preparing detailed plans about going on a killing spree in their Summerville High School for days.
However, unusually nervous behavior and excited body language on part of the students planning the attack during school hours drew suspicion from the students’ classmates, some of whom anonymously called the police on Wednesday morning. Detectives arrested the four students on charges of conspiracy to commit an assault with deadly weapons on Friday afternoon at their respective homes and turned them over to the Tuolumne County Probation Department, according to Miami Herald. The suspects’ names were not released because all four are juveniles.
According to Tuolumne County Sheriff Jim Mele, when the police raided the houses of three of the four students, who apparently all hail from California, they were stunned to find clues and paperwork which were “very detailed in nature and included the names of victims, locations, and methods in which the plan was to be carried out.”
Mele further told NBC that the four students had been emboldened to carry out their ghastly attack after witnessing a surge in mass shootings across USA during the past few years.
“They were going to come on campus and shoot and kill as many people as possible at the campus. It is particularly unsettling when our most precious assets – which are our students, their teachers – are targets for violence.”
The California state police also thanked students whose timely intervention may have helped prevent another mass shooting in one of the country’s educational institutions.
“Their willingness to get involved and report what they saw prevented what well could have been another needless tragedy.”
After the school arrests came to light, parents of concerned students gathered outside the school premises, wondering if it was safe for their children to carry on with their routines in tense times such as these. The local police then conducted an open press conference, where they answered questions by anxious parents, emphasizing that they had all the suspects under arrest.
The officials also spoke of the need of small communities such as that of Tuolumne to stick together if the country was to successfully thwart violence inflicted by young people who were increasingly taking to guns in a bid to overcome their psychological and social problems.
“We believe, with all our heart, the reason we were able to stop this was because we have a level of trust within our community. When you have a level of trust with the law enforcement, your education – we meet monthly, we meet constantly – you can do this.”
After the hour-long discussion held at the Summerville High School, officials, teachers and parents concurred at the possible reasons for the surge in mass shootings. They identified bullying (also cyberbullying) and the exposure of children to violence in media as the main culprits.
“When we turn on the TV, violence is always on, or at our fingertips on the computer. [We] think children today have a hard time trying to understand the difference between what is reality and fiction. To say why, [we] don’t know why. [We] do know the discussion needs to start not only in our community, but throughout the nation, about what can we do to stop this violence.”
Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter reiterated that his office will collect the information about the case from the Sheriff’s Office and begin to decide what charges will be filed. He emphasized that in light of the Oregon shooting and other mass murders instigated by juveniles, it was important for parents to realize that their own children could be willing to carry out attacks without much premeditation.
“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.”
It remains to be seen just what punishment will be meted out to the four students held responsible for planning the mass shooting in California, but one thing is clear to many claimants: it is time we addressed the violence raging within our educational institutions.
[Photos via the Miami Herald]