Students posed 'serious threat'

Craig police chief: Bombing plot could have caused substantial damage

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— Though he refused to give specific details, Craig's police chief said Friday that three Moffat County High School students accused of plotting to blow up the school and the county courthouse posed a serious threat to the community.

"They were planning on planting explosive devices at the school and courthouse," Chief Walt Vanatta said. "Based on what we have learned in our investigation, they had the knowledge, skills and ability to carry out their plan. We decided to step in and get arrest warrants.

''They were talking about explosive devices that would have caused substantial damage and injury or death.''

The three students were arrested Dec. 21 on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder and terrorist training activities. One student was also accused of felony stalking.

The students are being held on $50,000 bond each at the Grand Mesa Juvenile Corrections facility in Grand Junction. Their names have not been released. They are expected to be formally charged at a hearing on Jan. 7.

The Craig Police Department and the Moffat County Sheriff's Office made the arrests after discovering what officers described as a plan to plant and detonate explosive devices at the high school and the courthouse.

Moffat County High School Principal Jane Krogman said that following the suspension of one of the students for possession of a pocketknife in mid-December, school administrators began investigating reports that the student had made violent threats. That investigation led school officials to the other two students, who were subsequently suspended for making violent threats.

Krogman would not say if the students targeted specific individuals in their plans. She also would not discuss how far the students went with their plans.

"We know these students were friends and we believe that all students involved in the threats have been apprehended. We have 800 students in our school and a duty to keep them safe," Krogman said. "We have a responsibility to the community to maintain a safe environment. That's what we're going to do, that's what the community trusts us to do."

Krogman said the students have been suspended through Jan. 11.

Vanatta would not discuss specifics of the investigation, including what evidence police had collected or if more arrests might be made. Craig police have searched the students' homes.

"The investigation is continuing as we speak," Vanatta said. "Where we go from here depends on the interviews we're conducting, and what the rest of the investigation produces. The department is taking this situation very seriously."

The students were transported to Grand Junction immediately after their arrests. They appeared before Judge Mary Lynne James in Moffat County Court on Monday, where their bonds were set, and then they were returned to the juvenile detention center for secure holding.

James sealed the arrest warrants preventing the release of the students' names, even though Colorado law states that arrest and criminal records of juveniles charged with a crime that would be a felony if committed by an adult are public record.

The judge left Friday for China. Given her order, school and law enforcement authorities were reluctant to provide much information on the case.

"So much is under investigation in this case," Krogman said. "It is really premature for us to discuss it we're in a legal quandary. "

Vice Principal Julie Baker said the faculty handled the situation according to school policy.

"We really handled this situation well. Our utmost priority is to ensure a safe environment for all students and staff," she said. "I am surprised by this. What we need to realize is whether we live in a town of 500 or 5 million, these issues are everywhere. We think by living in a small town we're immune to this the reality is, we're not. The administration at the high school is working very hard to take care of this."

Colorado law allows juveniles to be charged as adults in some cases. A conviction as an adult would cause a juvenile to be sentenced as an adult.

Deputy Assistant District Attorney Bonnie Roesink said final charges have not been filed and she would not comment on what those final charges might be.

Despite the threats and arrests, Krogman said school officials are confident I the safety of the school and that parents should not be concerned about students' return to the high school campus on Jan. 7.

"We are always working to maintain a safe environment. If anyone has concerns they should call me," she said. "If students know about potential violence or something like this, something that may be harmful, they should alert myself or a staff member."

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