RIVERTON Some people say they were loners. Others say they were bullies. And one student says the five teenagers suspected of plotting a shooting spree at their high school had told classmates the posting on the popular Web hangout Myspace.com that eventually tipped off authorities was just a prank.
But law enforcement and school officials say the boys, who range in age from 16 to 18, fully intended to carry out the plot.
Riverton schools Supt. David Walters said school officials investigated rumors of an attack for two days before turning the information over to law enforcement officials, who arrested the students early Thursday.
The teens planned to wear black trench coats and disable the school's camera system before starting the attack between noon and 1 p.m. Thursday, Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Norman said. Sheriff's deputies found guns, ammunition, knives and coded messages in the bedroom of one suspect and documents about firearms and references to Armageddon in two suspects' school lockers.
Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline, whose office took over the prosecution at the request of the county attorney, said his office was not prepared to file charges.
"To go forward and compare this to anything else is premature," Kline said during a news conference Friday in Topeka. "The evidence is still being obtained."
Kline said he will determine early next week whether to file criminal charges, and if so, what those charges would be and whether to try to have the four juveniles tried as adults.
Kline said he expected a judge to decide Friday night whether the boys could be detained for 72 hours on an affidavit that there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed.
District Judge Robert Fleming told The Associated Press late Friday night that he had not yet received the paperwork from the attorney general's office for his review and that he was going to bed.
Freshman Nathan Spriggs, 15, said rumors of the planned attack had run rampant the day before the arrests - prompting some students to tell the suspects: "Whatever you do, don't shoot me.
"They were actually worried," he said, adding that before they were arrested, the boys were telling their classmates they had posted the threat as a joke and were worried they would be suspended or expelled for doing it.
Some students doubted the boys intended to carry out the threat and said they were not alarmed that guns were found because in rural parts of Kansas it is not uncommon for youths to have access to guns for hunting.
"My parents didn't want me to go to school," Spriggs said Friday on the sidewalk outside the school. "I am class president for the freshman class. My job is to keep the peace here."
School officials were taking no chances.
"The sheriff's office believes it is the real thing. I have no reason to mistrust their judgment," Walters said.
Leah Virgil, a single mother of two high school students who knew the suspects, said she didn't learn about the threat until law enforcement became involved.