Alaska Kids' School Shooting Stopped

North Pole Middle School is shown in North Pole, Alaska, Saturday, April 22, 2006. Six middle school students were arrested Saturday on suspicion of plotting to bring guns and knives to school and kill fellow students. The arrests stem from an investigation into rumors reported to police earlier in the week about the students' plans in North Pole, a town of 1,600 people about 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks, said Police Chief Paul Lindhag. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, John Hagen) AP Photo

Police said a group of seventh-graders hatched an elaborate plan to cut off power and telephone service to their middle school, slay classmates and faculty with guns and knives, then escape from their small Alaska town.

The arrest Saturday of six students in North Pole, a town of 1,600 people about 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks, marks the nation's second breakup of an alleged Columbine-style school attack this week. Five Kansas teenagers suspected of planning a shooting rampage at their high school were arrested Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the massacre in suburban Colorado.

The Alaskan seventh-graders had been picked on by other students and wanted to seek revenge, Police Chief Paul Lindhag said. They also disliked staff and students, he said.

The students had planned to disable North Pole Middle School's power and telephone systems, allotting time to kill their victims and flee from town, Lindhag said.

A parent alerted police of rumors of an attack, Lindhag said. He would not elaborate on the case, or what kind of documented evidence led to the arrests.

"These are the ones who had major roles in this," Lindhag said. "All our information came through our interviews."

The students, who were being held at the Fairbanks Youth Facility, could face charges of first-degree conspiracy to commit murder, authorities said.

The North Pole boys, whose names were not released, were among 15 students at the school who were suspended after a parent tipped police Monday evening. A child told the parent that rumors were circulating about the alleged plot, which had been postponed from Monday until Tuesday, Lindhag said.

"We feel very thankful that a student felt they could talk to an adult, and very thankful that the adult had the wisdom to contact the North Pole Police Department," said Wayne Gerke, an assistant superintendent with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

The suspended students were identified by officers working with a school safety official. Parents were advised to keep their children away from 500-student campus Tuesday. Lindhag said authorities don't believe all the suspended students were involved, but officials erred on the side of caution.

"There were a lot of rumors flying around," Lindhag said.

Locals are "shocked, saddened and heartbroken about whole situation," but area schools have policies to deal with such a crisis, Gerke said.

The other students remain suspended while the investigation continues, and police will have a presence at the school for the rest of the year, officials said.

Earlier this week in Riverton, Kan., school officials learned that a threatening message had been posted on the Internet, authorities said, by boys, aged 16 to 18.

The five teenagers remained in jail Saturday morning and prosecutors said it will be early next week before they decide whether, or how to charge the boys, reports CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

Deputies' interviews with the suspects indicated they planned to wear black trench coats and disable the school's camera system before starting the attack between noon and 1 p.m. Thursday, Norman said. The suspects apparently had been plotting since the beginning of the school year.

High school officials began investigating on Tuesday after learning that a threatening message had been posted on MySpace.com.

The message discussed the significance of April 20, which is Adolf Hitler's birthday and the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School attack in Colorado, in which two students killed 13 people and committed suicide.
  • Christine Lagorio

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