Four students were arrested Friday in Tuolumne, California, after police discovered a “detailed” plan to “shoot and kill as many people as possible” at a local high school, the sheriff said.
Tuolumne County Sheriff James Mele didn’t identify the suspects in a news conference Saturday, although he said they were students at Summerville High School, where the alleged shooting was to have taken place, and that they were male. They haven’t yet been charged.
Other students at Summerville in Tuolumne, about 55 miles east of Stockton, heard the suspects discussing the shooting last week, so they told school staff, Mele said. The school then contacted the sheriff’s office.
“Detectives located evidence verifying a plot to shoot staff and students at Summerville High School,” Mele said. “The suspects’ plan was very detailed in nature and included names of would-be victims, locations and the methods in which the plan was to be carried out.”
The “common denominator” of possible victims, Mele said, was their affiliation with Summerville.
The four suspects were in the process of securing weapons, Mele said, adding that they were “pretty doggone close” to being able to carry out the attack.
“I have no idea why somebody or a group of individuals would want to do this,” Mele said, but he added, “Cyber-bullying is a problem in our society.”
“I think children today have a hard time trying to understand what is reality and what is fiction,” he said.
Recalling the shootings at Columbine, Sandy Hook and now Roseburg, Oregon,Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter told reporters that it might be easy to dismiss the idea of a school shooting happening in a place like Tuolumne County.
But, he added, “it is clear” that “children are willing and capable of planning and carrying out acts of violence against fellow students and teachers.”