3 Charged In Columbine-Style Plot

A bobcat skull stenciled with swastikas and white supremacist slogans, knives and rifles are among evidence collected by the Jackson County Sheriff's Department Friday, Feb. 2, 2001. AP

Residents of this northeast Kansas town say they're thankful three Royal Valley High School students accused of planning what authorities call a Columbine-style plot were caught before they pulled it off.

Those who knew the accused teen-agers say they were average students until just over a year ago, when they began dressing differently and keeping to themselves.

Charged Monday with conspiracy to commit aggravated arson were Richard B. Bradley Jr., 18, of Hoyt, Jason L. Moss, 17, and James R. Lopez, 16, both of nearby Mayetta. Lopez was also charged with aggravated intimidation of a witness or victim.

Relatives of Lopez and Moss could not be located Tuesday. A woman at Bradley's home, who declined to identify herself, said, "I have nothing to say."

Lopez's attorney, Dennis White of Holton, and Michael Hayes of Oskaloosa, an attorney for Moss, declined to comment.

Jackson County Attorney Doug Fisher said in a statement Tuesday the two juveniles were at the Shawnee County Detention Center in Topeka. Bradley was released from jail Tuesday on $10,000 bond.

School officials were first tipped off to trouble three months ago, when racist writings were found on one of the three boys. And after an anonymous caller warned the trio might be making bombs, police moved in, CBS News Correspondent Bob McNamara reports.

Police searched two homes Friday and found bomb-making materials, floor plans of the school, a modified assault rifle, ammunition and white supremacist drawings, police said.

Police have no indications that others are involved, said Chief Detective Steven Rupert of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office. "I can say that they were loners and they hung in one small group," Rupert said.

There were quick comparisons to the April, 1999, shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., where two students killed 13 people before killing themselves.

"I would guess it would be nothing short of what happened at Columbine," said Rupert. He said the suspects had discussed the Columbine attack and planned a similar attack on the high school, possibly at a dance.

Three trench coats, similar to those worn by the Columbine shooters, also were found.

"We're just real pleased that everything got discovered before anything happened," said the Rev. Tom Fraunfelter, pastor of the First Baptist Church.

"I've been telling the kids how brave it is for someone to speak up and say this wasn't right and told somebody," he added.

Laura Del Toro, whose 16-year-old son attends the school, agreed the town was lucky, but added, "It shows you aren't safe anywhere. You have to be careful."

Justin Hainline, 19, said he grew up with Bradley and Moss and considered them friends, but didn't know Lopez well.

Hainline recalled he and Bradley played on the same baseball team as youngsters.

"Back then, we were pretty close, but he drifted apart. He seemed like the average kid thn," Hainline said.

He said that around December 1999, Bradley and Moss started to change. Bradley started wearing baggy jeans and rock group T-shirts and Moss shaved his head and grew and goatee.

"Ricky wouldn't talk to anybody; he excluded himself to his group," Hainline said. "They used to be well-dressed, well-respected kids until December came around."

Like the rest of the community, Hainline said he was shocked when he heard of the arrests.

"They both have well-respected families around here. I guess I didn't think they would do this to their families," he said.

Royal Valley School Superintendent Marceta Reilly declined to discuss the three accused students, but said attendance at the high school Tuesday was normal.

"The kids are handling this like it's not part of school, that it's outside school," she said. "It shows their resilience. The kids appear to be OK."

Reilly said she talked Monday night with 70 or 80 parents at a meeting called by tribal council leaders of the nearby Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. She said about 20 percent of the 900 students in the district are Potawatomi.

Prompted by parents' concerns, Reilly said she asked the Kansas Highway Patrol to bring in two bomb-sniffing dogs Monday night to search the high school, middle school and elementary school.

"We did a thorough search of all our schools, and nothing was found," she said.

Reilly said some parents were concerned about what a sheriff's department news release characterized as "white supremacy-related paraphernalia."

Materials seized included a bobcat skull that had swastikas drawn on it, but the three teen-agers apparently were not targeting minorities.

"It did not seem to be racially motivated at all," said Rupert.


  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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