Citizen aid is key in halting attacks

The arrest of Palisade High School student Robert Johnson for an alleged plot to use weapons and explosives for some sort of attack on his school highlights two things.

First, in 21st century America, it seems virtually every public high school has its own Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold wannabes — disenchanted young men who concoct violent plans to seek revenge or simply to make a name for themselves. Ten years after the murders at Columbine High School in suburban Denver, the actions of Klebold and Harris continue to draw acolytes who want to commit their own version of the Columbine violence.

Because the affidavit for Johnson’s arrest is sealed and very little other information has been released, we don’t know how much of an influence — if any — the Columbine killers may have had on Johnson’s alleged plans. But based on incidents around the country in the years since Columbine — both planned attacks and the few that were actually carried out — we know many of those involved felt a connection to Harris and Klebold. There are still Web sites today that pay homage to them.

Second, we also know that when these violent plans are thwarted, it is usually because some responsible person — a teacher, fellow student, friend or family member learned of the attack effort and alerted authorities.

There are reports that this occurred with the Johnson case. A citizen of this community got word of what the young man was allegedly planning and told authorities. As a result, police were able to prevent a possible attack from occurring. District Attorney Pete Hautzinger called the allegations about Johnson’s purported plans “profoundly disturbing.”

The public knows almost nothing about those alleged plans, as of yet. More will become available when the affidavit related to Johnson’s arrest is unsealed. That needs to occur soon. Even more information will become known as the criminal case against Johnson moves forward.

Whatever occurs in that regard, it’s critical for people to remember the importance of citizens working with police in such cases. We don’t mean to suggest that friends, family and faculty members dealing with teenage boys should act as snitches, reporting every angry comment they hear. But when they learn of real threats — actual plans involving weapons or explosives — they need to contact school or law enforcement authorities quickly.

That sort of action in the Johnson case may have prevented a far more horrific outcome.


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