Prosecutor: Tumwater student accused of threatening students expressed "fascination with Columbine"

Staff writerDecember 17, 2013 

Black Hills High School near Tumwater.

JEREMY PAWLOSKI — Staff writer

UPDATE: Tumwater police found three guns, ammunition, possible gunpowder, and fireworks in the home of a 14-year-old Black Hills High School student Monday after he had earlier threatened to shoot students at the school, a juvenile prosecutor said in court Tuesday.

The student had done Internet research on school shootings and expressed a "fascination with Columbine," the 1999 school shooting in which two students killed 12 other students and themselves at Columbine High School in Colorado, Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Wayne Graham said in court.

Tumwater police were dispatched to the 14-year-old student's Tumwater Hill home Monday morning after one of the boy's friends reported to police that the boy was threatening to shoot students at Black Hills High School, then himself, Tumwater Police Detective Jen Kolb said. After they found the guns and ammunition, they arrested the boy, Kolb said.

On Tuesday, Thurston County Juvenile Court Commissioner Indu Thomas ordered the 14-year-old held at the Thurston County Juvenile Jail, with bail set at $100,000, pending a "safe to be at large" evaluation.

The boy is being held on two juvenile counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and one count of felony harassment for allegedly telling the friend that he wanted to shoot students, Graham said.

Two of the guns, the ammunition and a bag of what could be gunpowder were found in the boy's bedroom, Kolb said. Kolb said more testing needs to be done on the bag's contents, and she does not believe it is gunpowder.

Graham said the guns found in the home included a 9 mm pistol, a pistol-gripped shotgun and a "assault-style weapon."

"He had access to things most 14-year-old boys do not have access to," Graham said.

In court Tuesday, the boy's mother begged Thomas to release her son, stating that she does not believe he is a danger to others. "My son has had some depression issues and I believe this may have been just a cry for help. ... I do not believe he's a threat. I know my son more than anyone."

The boy has no prior history of arrests or any prior criminal record, a juvenile probation officer said.

The boy's grandmother spoke to an Olympian reporter outside court prior to the start of Tuesday's hearing. She said that the boy's dad had bought him a .22-caliber rifle so that they could go hunting together, and taught him proper gun safety.

The boy's grandmother added that the 14-year-old has been depressed lately, and sees a counselor. But she said the incident is being blown out of proportion by police.

She added that the 9 mm pistol that was seized by police belongs to her son, not her grandson, and that it was only in the home because her son had taken it out of his vehicle while he was helping the family move.

"He wouldn't hurt anybody, he wouldn't hurt a fly," the boy's grandmother said.

She said doctors at Providence St. Peter Hospital refused to involuntarily commit the boy during an evaluation Monday. Kolb confirmed that the student underwent an evaluation Monday at Providence St. Peter Hospital before he was booked into juvenile detention.

The suspect's grandmother said her daughter works two jobs and is a good parent. "We pay attention," she said.

The Tumwater School District took precautions at Black Hills High School Monday morning, Kolb said. But she added that the boy hadn't taken the firearms to school and no students were in any direct danger. The guns that police found in the boy's bedroom were unloaded, she added.

The friend who reported the situation to police also reported that the boy had firearms at his disposal, Kolb said.

It is unclear whether the student actually wanted to follow through on the plan he told his friend about, Kolb said. Kolb said the boy told police Monday he was not serious.

Tumwater School District spokeswoman Kim Howard said the district sent the following statement to Black Hills parents on Tuesday: "Yesterday morning there were some precautionary measures taken at Black Hills High School to address student safety. This was due to a tip reported to the police that a student intended to harm himself and others. The student never came onto the campus. The police were able to locate the student soon after school started and have taken appropriate action." 

The district put the student on emergency expulsion, which means he may not return to the school. "Such emergency expulsion shall continue until the student is reinstated by the expelling authority or until modified or reversed pursuant to a hearing," states the district's handbook.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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