Police: Text messages helped foil teens' school bomb plot

Two teens accused of school bomb plot
Two teens accused of school bomb plot

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Story highlights

  • The 18-year-old faces a "use of weapon of mass destruction" charge
  • Columbine's principal notes no "red flags" when a suspect interviewed him
  • Text messages tipped off authorities to the plot, an affidavit says
  • The pair apparently planned to escape the scene by plane
A series of text messages tipped off authorities to an alleged Columbine-inspired plot by two high school students to detonate bombs during a school assembly, according to a Utah police document.
The plot was uncovered Wednesday at Roy High School in Roy, according to police.
"This was not idle chatter," Police Chief Greg Winham said Friday. "There was significant thought, there was significant purpose, and there had been some preplanning and training."
Authorities arrested 18-year-old Dallin Morgan and a 16-year-old boy who, fascinated by the mass 1999 killing at Columbine High School, had interviewed that Colorado school's principal six weeks earlier.
Both suspects are students at the school located in the Ogden suburb, approximately 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.
The 16-year-old is currently in a juvenile detention center, and the district attorney has five days to file charges against him, according to Utah State Courts spokeswoman Nancy Volmer.
Morgan, meanwhile, faces one felony count of use of a weapon of mass destruction, according to a court document issued Friday. He is set for an initial court appearance on February 2 to hear the charge, according to Volmer. Until then, he's free on $10,000 bond, officials said.
Documents released thus far do not indicate that authorities found a bomb, though the 16-year-old did tell police that he'd previously made a pipe bomb using "gunpowder and rocket fuel."
Text message foils high school bomb plot
Text message foils high school bomb plot

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Text message foils high school bomb plot 03:45
The charge that the 18-year-old faces specifies that he "intentionally or knowingly" either used, possessed or "conspire(d) to use a weapon of mass destruction or a delivery system for a weapon of mass destruction; and/or did intentionally aid, assist, encourage, command or solicit another to do the same."
The unnamed person who received the texts that jump-started the investigation -- presumably from the 16-year-old suspect who is not being named because he is a juvenile -- alerted authorities to them, according to a probable cause affidavit.
"If I tell you one day not to go to school, make damn sure you and your brother are not there," one text message read. "I get the feeling you know what I'm planning."
Another message said "Dallin is in on it."
Other texts explained a plot in which the students would attack others and then make a getaway in a plane, authorities said.
"Explosives, airport, airplane," one text read, according to the affidavit.
"We ain't going to crash it, we're just gonna kill and fly our way to a country that won't send us back to the U.S.," another text states.
Police interviewed Morgan, who they said admitted to being part of the plot. School administrators found a map of the high school marking where the security cameras are located, and where their blind spots are, the affidavit says.
"Initial investigative discovery has uncovered a plan to use explosives during a school assembly," Roy police said in a statement Thursday. "Maps of the school and information about security systems had been prepared with plans to escape using a plane."
The pair had made use of flight simulation programs in the preparation of their alleged plot, officials said.
After the arrests in Roy, authorities searched five locations for evidence, including two vehicles and two homes.
The 16-year-old allegedly told police that he was fascinated by the Columbine massacre that occurred nearly 13 years earlier, when gunmen Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed a dozen students, a teacher and ultimately themselves.
Columbine High Principal Frank DeAngelis sat down for an interview with this Utah teen on December 12, 2011, according to police.
DeAngelis told Vinnie Politan of CNN's sister network HLN that he gets requests "on a regular basis" from people working on student newspapers, term papers and documentaries who want to talk "about Columbine, school safety, things of that nature." He recalled that the 16-year-old identified himself as a sophomore and student newspaper editor from Utah, who was "in town (and) had some questions to ask me."
Describing the teen as "articulate," the principal -- who has been at Columbine for 33 years, the last 16 as a principal -- said there were no "red flags" in his line of questioning.
"He wasn't asking about, Can you show me where the bombs were? Can you show me where people died?" DeAngelis said Friday. "It was just, What are you doing? How do you help your kids? And things like that."
According to police documents, the 16-year-old later told authorities that he did not want to be compared to the Columbine killers because he was smart enough to kill more people.
"It's pretty scary what could have happened," Joe Parrera, whose daughter goes to Roy High School, told HLN's Politan. "It's a big shock to everyone, just to see someone plan something like this."