TACOMA - Pierce County sheriff's deputies say they foiled a plot by four students at Key Peninsula Middle School at Lakebay in the Peninsula School District to shoot staff members and students and, burn down the school.
"We do not believe they would have ever pulled this off," sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told The News Tribune on Tuesday. "That doesn't mean they weren't going to try."
"It is still very disconcerting that we have 12-, 13-, 14-year-olds planning these things out for the simple reason of they don't like certain administrators and teachers," Troyer said.
Deputies arrested three boys, ages 12, 13 and 14, on Friday. They are being held at Remann Hall juvenile jail on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.
Deputies are searching for a 14-year-old girl, Troyer said.
Prosecutors on Wednesday charged them with conspiracy to commit assault.
According to court documents, the three boys were trying to recruit other students to help. Judge Ronald Culpepper said in court, "This may have been more than just childish pranks."
Defense attorneys tried to downplay the seriousness of the boys' actions. "I would point out to you that it is entirely in terms of words," said Defense Attorney Hiram Groshell.
But after the judge heard about the boys allegedly talking about where to get gasoline for molotov cocktails, where they could steal guns, and one actually having a copy of the Anarchy Cookbook, which has recipes for building bombs, he refused to allow any of the boys to be released.
"So that's not just talk," said Judge Culpepper, "that's more taking some action towards the goal you're talking about, so I think there is some risk here."
Investigators said the youths planned the attack on May 1 and had targeted where to steal the weapons.
Marcia Harris, deputy superintendent for the school district based in Gig Harbor, said the plot unfolded late last week after rumors started circulating around school. School officials investigated and notified the sheriff's department on Friday.
The sheriff's department has notified the intended targets of the plan. The district is on spring break this week.
The school district is completing its investigation and will take appropriate disciplinary action, Harris said. A letter on the incident was sent Tuesday night to parents of students at the school.