A 15-year-old girl and boy have been charged as adults and two other students at their Pennsylvania high school have been charged as juveniles in connection with a massacre they intended to carry out on the 25th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, police said.
The Columbine tragedy occurred on 20 April 1999 when students Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold walked into their high school in Littleton, Colorado with trench coats and an arsenal, killing more than a dozen people, including themselves.
The Pennsylvania students seemed inspired and “obsessed” with the Colorado incident, according to local reports. Dunmore High School students Zavier Lewis and Alyssa Kucharski have been charged as adults due to the serious nature of the threats, Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell told local NBC affiliate WBRE. Two others were charged as juveniles for allgedly conspiring to attack the school.
Like Harris and Klebold, the conspirators were allegedly planning an assault with firearms and explosives.
According to court records obtained by the station, Mr Lewis and Ms Kucharski wanted “everything to go down like that” – referring to Columbine, which marks one of the first and most infamous American school shootings.
Investigators searching Ms Kucharski’s home found components for bombs, writings about how to make them and handwritten, priced lists of guns, ammunition and tactical gear – along with at least one Molotov cocktail, according to a criminal complaint cited by WBRE.
Investigators also found text messages in which the students discussed plans to “shoot up the school” and one called “dibs” on an intended victim, WBRE reported.
The plot was only uncovered after a mother of one of the students charged as a juvenile found text messages on the teen’s phone in July, the complaint alleges. That student eventually told authorities he’d seen Molotov cocktails under Ms Kucharski’s porch, according to local reports.
She and Mr Lewis were arraigned on 16 September on weapons of mass destruction, terroristic threat, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and possession of explosive material charges. The girl is also charged with risking catastrophe because of the threat the explosive devices posed to family members and neighbors, police said.
Preliminary hearings are scheduled for 4 October.
“While the investigation is ongoing, I want to assure the parents, students and staff at Dunmore High School that we do not believe there is any active threat at this time,” District Attorney Mark Powell said. “We are relieved that this plot was uncovered before anyone was hurt and urge anyone who has information about potential threats of school violence to contact police immediately.”
The targeted school on Friday released a statement assuring that there was “no current danger to students or staff”.
Principal Timothy Hopkins, who was one of the officials targeted, told the Times-Tribune the students were not troublemakers, he was confused as to why he’d be on their hit list, and it was “a little bit disturbing to find out something like that was being plotted”.