Palisade student recognized for reporting alleged threat

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey, far left, hands Calvin O’Banion a Sheriff’s Department award after giving him a plaque commending him for his part in the apprehension of Robert Dell Johnson, who is accused of planning to attack Palisade High High School at the school Thursday. At right are Calvin’s parents, Tracie and David O’Banion.

While it took time for him to come forward, Calvin O’Banion did just that.

And possibly averted tragedy in the process, authorities said Thursday.

“I’ve been here four years, and I don’t want to see anybody get shot at,” said O’Banion, the Palisade High School senior who reported threats of violence against the school allegedly made by 18-year-old Robert Dell Johnson.

“It freaks me out,” O’Banion told reporters Thursday afternoon in front of the school during a hastily called news conference organized by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department and School District 51 officials.

Sheriff Stan Hilkey presented O’Banion a plaque and an honorary coin, commending him for his actions.

According to an arrest affidavit unsealed Thursday, Johnson allegedly approached O’Banion during a lunch period on Sept. 18 and asked him if he could get explosives to target Palisade High in a “Columbine type” assault.

“I was scared at first, and I didn’t know what to do,” O’Banion said.

“I always knew I had to tell somebody, but I had to think it through,” he said of his delay in coming forward.

The affidavit said O’Banion went to school officials Sept. 28 with Johnson’s statements. This followed a second meeting with Johnson, and two other boys, on Sept. 25 when Johnson allegedly said he “already had guns” and still was interested in obtaining explosives.

“I’m kind of glad (Johnson) came to me,” O’Banion said. “If he wouldn’t have (come to him), it could have happened.”

The affidavit doesn’t suggest why Johnson chose to approach O’Banion.

O’Banion, 17, said he wasn’t friends with Johnson and they had only one class together several years ago.

O’Banion said he wasn’t concerned with possible reprisals from other classmates after Thursday’s press conference. Johnson’s arrest affidavit says at least two other students at the school were part of a conversation Sept. 25 in which Johnson allegedly talked about acquiring explosives.

“I don’t think anything will happen,” O’Banion said.

The other two boys have not been charged. Their homes were searched along with Johnson’s home, and authorities reported finding no evidence of a written plot to strike the school.

“I don’t know if they were as credible, or were going along with it like (Johnson) was,” O’Banion said of Johnson’s alleged cohorts.


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