Conflict & Tragedy
Before Connecticut tragedy, police thwarted Oklahoma school shooting plan
At 5 a.m. on Friday, before the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., police in Bartlesville, Okla., 40 miles north of Tulsa, thwarted a school-shooting plot. They arrested Sammie Eaglebear Chavez, 18, who is now in jail on a $1 million bond.
USA Today reported Chavez was charged with "conspiring to cause serious bodily harm or death." He remains in the Washington County jail and is due in court Jan. 11. Layne Jones, assistant principal at Chavez's high school, alerted the police about the pending attack on Thursday.
A fellow student told authorities that Chavez tried to “recruit other students to assist him with carrying out a plan to lure students into the school auditorium where he planned to begin shooting them after chaining the doors shut.” He also said he would place bombs at the doors of the auditorium and detonate them when police arrived.
Chavez had previously told a teacher he had purchased a .45-caliber gun and was learning how to shoot it. He was seen researching the 1999 Columbine massacre and was trying to obtain a blueprint of his school's layout.
On Friday, the school district informed parents and faculty via email about the "potential incident" that was now in the hands of authorities.
Unfortunately, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School could not have been prevented. Although it was reported that Adam Lanza, the Connecticut school shooter, had argued with four faculty in the days before the shooting; he killed three of the four.
It appears that, at least, in part, his reason for forcing his way into the school was to seek vengeance. The fourth faculty member was not at the school on the day of the shooting, and officials have not revealed her identity. She is being questioned on the details of the altercation.
At the Oklahoma high school, the principal, teacher and Chavez's fellow students were quick to report what they knew to the proper authorities, because Chavez, a current student at the school, had openly talked about his plans. Everyone took Chavez's threats seriously, and this potentially saved the lives of many. The school is adding extra security for the next few weeks to keep students and residents safe.
The question is, what happens after this, and how long can this go on? In the Columbine case, officials did not reveal videotapes of the two killers plotting the massacre because they believed that, in the wrong hands, it would create "copycat" crimes. That was 13 years ago, and information is freely dispersed now—often erroneous information is released before the facts unfold.
Perhaps there is a copycat element to these massacres. But how do we weigh the public's right to know against not revealing too much information for a disturbed person to to use in a twisted plot?
On Friday, President Obama said we as a nation would have to get together and "take meaningful action ... regardless of the politics," so tragedies like the Connecticut one won't happen again. The public should petition lawmakers and insist they begin immediately.