Arundel boys accused of having bomb parts

3 Glen Burnie High students arrested

others report threats

April 30, 1999|By Kirsten Scharnberg and Laura Sullivan | Kirsten Scharnberg and Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Even as funerals continued in a shell-shocked community in Colorado, three Glen Burnie High School freshmen were arrested yesterday after school officials received warnings that the youths were threatening classmates and plotting to bomb the school.

Almost immediately, the homes of the three boys were searched.

Bombs and bomb-making devices were found, Anne Arundel County police said, and one of the boys acknowledged taunting other students about a hit list.

By midafternoon, one was charged with issuing bomb threats, the other two with possessing bomb-making components.

The news whisked through the hallways of the sprawling Glen Burnie campus. Rumors ran wild. Some kids and parents panicked. And suddenly, a far-off place called Littleton didn't seem so far off at all.

"Bomb threats used to be funny," said 17-year-old senior Mike Knipp, an editor of the school newspaper, Big Red, who says he has been evacuated from school for potential explosives more times than he can count.

"But the week after a dozen kids were killed," he said, "it's not funny anymore."

Perhaps the thing that separated Glen Burnie, Md., from Littleton, Colo., was that somebody knew and somebody came forward.

Schools spokeswoman Jane Doyle said a number of kids came to administrators late Wednesday with a wealth of disturbing information: Three male students apparently had threatened several others during a hallway skirmish. They had boasted about making bombs, and had warned of an attack.

Graffiti had been seen around the school; one note scratched into a desk warned, "If you think Littleton was bad, wait until you see what happens here."

Other signs written in felt-tip pen predicted that "the avalanche is coming May 10" and that "somebody's gonna die."

In a suburban county where 119 bomb threats were reported last year and in a month where deadly school violence is the hottest topic, the information wasn't taken lightly. The youths were identified, and the police were called.

After police searched the boys' homes, they reported finding match heads, suitcases, wires and chemicals in one student's bedroom. They said they also found printouts from the Internet showing how to put it all together to make bombs.

"We are by no means immune to what happened in Colorado," said Doyle. "It's disturbing and concerning."

Boys in custody

The three boys, two 14-year-olds and a 15-year-old who have been charged as juveniles, remained in police custody last night. The Sun does not print the names of juvenile suspects.

Despite the sensational student accusations and the rampant rumors of an impending May 10 attack, friends, relatives and neighbors of the students said they were not planning to hurt anyone and they are being considered a threat only because the tragedy in Littleton is so fresh in everyone's mind.

Those defenders said the journey to possible felony charges began innocently, with a curt exchange between students One of the boys lashed out in anger, saying, "You're on my hit list."

When administrators questioned him and his parents, along with a police officer, one boy said, "I'm not into guns, but I have friends who like bombs, and we're trying to make them."

Too soon to judge

They might have been outcasts fascinated with things that blow up, but they weren't dangerous, attorney Patrick M. Smith said.

"Recent events have exacerbated the matter," he said. "We request no judgments be made."

Teen-age friends of one of the boys described him as quiet, the son of a carpenter and a homemaker. They said he liked to play with fire and wear dark clothes, and sometimes carried gunpowder in his belt.

At the same time, buddies Matt McAvoy and Adam Blubaugh called the boy a bit of "an absent-minded professor" who played with chemicals, but wasn't successful enough to be a threat.

Like the teen-agers in Colorado, the boys were picked on, called "goobers" by other kids.

Eight days after two disturbed young men entered a Colorado school and massacred 12 of their classmates, the threats were enough. The schools suspended the three, pending expulsion.

Gatherings are canceled

School officials canceled an assembly yesterday and the Spring Pep Rally scheduled for today.

"We decided with all the rumors and tension that it was safer to not put all the kids in one place in one setting," said Kenneth Lawson, associate superintendent of schools.

No one is taking chances these days. Not after the lessons learned from places where students have turned on their classmates, like Jonesboro, Ark., and Springfield, Ore., and Littleton.

In Norwood Elementary School in Dundalk, two fourth-graders told administrators yesterday that a bomb was going to go off, so the school was evacuated. The boys later acknowledged that they had made up the story.

Howard County school officials said yesterday that a student was suspended from Howard High on Wednesday, after bullet shells were found on school property.

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