Student Says Rumors Rampant Before Arrests

By ROXANA HEGEMAN
The Associated Press
Saturday, April 22, 2006; 2:34 AM

RIVERTON, Kan. -- A student at the small-town high school where five teens are accused of planning an attack said Friday that rumors were rampant on the day before their arrest, prompting some schoolmates to tell the suspects: "Whatever you do, don't shoot me."

Freshman Nathan Spriggs, 15, also said his friends, who are suspected of planning to shoot fellow students and school employees, told him they had posted a threat on the Internet as a joke and feared they would be suspended or expelled for doing it.

Riverton High School officials were taking no chances.

Five boys, ages 16 to 18, were arrested Thursday, the anniversary of the Columbine massacre, authorities said.

"The sheriff's office believes it is the real thing," said Superintendent David Walters. "I have no reason to mistrust their judgment."

Attorney General Phill Kline said Friday that he would decide early next week whether to charge the five and whether to do so as juveniles or adults.

Judge Robert Flemming decided early Saturday that there was cause to detain the boys for at least 72 hours, Kline said. Four younger than 18 were being held at a juvenile detention center. An 18-year-old was in the Cherokee County jail. All were being held on $500,000 bond each.

A bond hearing was set for 2 p.m. Monday.

School officials began investigating Tuesday after learning that a threatening message had been posted on MySpace.com, officials said.

Some students said they doubted the boys intended to carry out the threat and said they were not alarmed that authorities found guns in one suspect's bedroom because it is not uncommon in rural Kansas for youths to have access to hunting weapons.

One suspect has a history of school fights and had made such comments as "I wish so and so died" or "I am going to shoot someone," said Brandon Hay, 18, a senior.

"We knew it was joking around," said Hay, whose brother is a close friend of the suspects. "They weren't bullied a whole lot. They bullied a few kids."

Others who knew the suspects said the boys had friends at school.

"Everybody has their own group," said Ronni Paxson, 17, a senior. "The school is small. Everybody knows everybody."

Leah Virgil, a mother of two students who knew the suspects, said they were "loners, misfits" who had "a lot of anger."

"Maybe the reason they said something over the Internet is a cry for someone to stop it before it happened _ which is what happened," she said.


© 2006 The Associated Press