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School Reopens After “Columbine-like” Threat

The AP via YellowBrix

December 15, 2009

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Students returned Monday to a New Jersey high school that prosecutors say was the target of a “Columbine-like” plot and were greeted by a police presence that was intended to reassure that Bridgewater-Raritan High School was safe.

Authorities say a 16-year-old junior at the school was arrested Thursday after a police resource officer at the school was told the teen was planning an attack.

Officials also arrested a 17-year-old senior from nearby Immaculata High School, who is a competitive target shooter.

Police declined to name the individuals, but said they found shotgun shells, bullets, black powder and explosive devices in a search of the 16-year-old’s home.

Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest says the 16-year-old faces charges ranging from attempted murder to possession of destructive devices, and he’s being held at the Middlesex County Juvenile Detention Facility.

Police said a search of the 17-year-old’s home turned up several firearms registered to the boy’s father, as well as shotgun shells matching the ones found in the 16-year-old’s home. The 17-year-old is charged with possession of destructive devices.

Officials from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office said the two students, who were friends, allegedly worked together to buy PVC piping, wiring and electrical devices at a local Home Depot, and then use schematic drawings of improvised explosive devices to begin trying to assemble them in the 16-year-old’s home.

Bridgewater-Raritan High School was closed on Friday as a precaution. Counselors were on hand Monday to help students cope, and several students said attendance seemed lighter than usual.

“If that student hadn’t told on him, some of my friends could be dead right now,” said 18-year-old Scott Beaufait, a senior at the school. “This was a big shock.”

Mariel Johnson, a 17-year-old junior at the school, said everyone was talking about how there could have been an attack Monday morning if another student hadn’t told school officials of her concern over the boy.

“Today is more emotional, because it was supposed to happen today,” Johnson said, adding she was too distracted to take her chemistry exam and was going home sick.

Students and parents were notified Thursday night via text message and phone calls that the school was being closed Friday.

Principal James Riccobono addressed the 2,900 students before classes began Monday. The principal told them that acts of violence can happen anywhere and he praised a student for alerting authorities.

“In this day and age, there is not anywhere in the world that one can say, “I cannot believe that something like that can happen here,” he said.

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