Three teens charged with plotting attack
NEW BEDFORD, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Three teen-age boys accused of plotting to attack their high school remained behind bars without bond Monday as nearly 60 percent of their fellow students returned to classes Monday.
Police said Eric McKeehan, 17, and two 15-year-old freshmen at New Bedford High School modeled themselves after the two students who carried out the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado.
"They talked about that they were going to try to outdo Columbine, that they were going to detonate an explosive device, that they were going to shoot students and faculty, and eventually commit suicide," said New Bedford Police Chief Arthur Kelly.
Fifteen people died in the rampage at Columbine High School on April 20 1999, including the teen-age gunmen, who committed suicide. It was the nation's bloodiest school shooting.
New Bedford Headmaster Joseph Oliver said security measures, resource officers and the student who reported a threat probably prevented any violence.
The three students were arraigned Monday on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and possession of ammunition. All three pleaded innocent.
McKeehan was charged as an adult and faces a "dangerousness" hearing next week to determine whether he should remain in jail without bond.
The two juvenile suspects were also kept in custody. Under Massachusetts law, juveniles are defined as being between the ages of 8 and 16.
Relatives of one suspect described the boy as a good kid and said authorities were overreacting.
Kelly said two other suspects, a 17-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, have been ordered to appear in court Tuesday and Wednesday to face the same charges.
Police and bomb-sniffing dogs searched the 3,300-student school Sunday and found no explosives, a police spokesman said.
"I was a little nervous, but I trust the school," one student said Monday, referring to the weekend search.
Oliver said he thanked the students who returned to school Monday. He said the students were allowed to voice their concerns during teacher-led discussions in classrooms.
"There were six students who met with adjustment counselors throughout the day that had various concerns dealing with either personal issues or questioning the safety in the building," said Oliver.
"I think that the vast majority of students they felt safe being at school, they felt that they were in a good place, a supportive place and they were ready to get back to the dealings of education."
He said 41 percent of the students stayed home, more than expected and an absentee rate about three times higher than usual.
The arrests followed an investigation that began when a student alerted faculty members October 17 of a threat made against the school.
Three days later, a janitor discovered a letter detailing an attack, and authorities searched the school.
Four days after that, Kelly said, a landlord told police bomb-making components were found in an attic after a tenant moved out.
The letter "explicitly outlined an event that would occur on a Monday," according to authorities. The Columbine massacre was on a Tuesday.
The letter said the attack would involve "explosives or the use of explosives, weapons and injuring or killing students and faculty," police said. Authorities also found photos of people posing with weapons.
School to reopen after explosives search
November 25, 2001
New Bedford, Massachusetts
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