The message on MySpace.com about April 20 bring Adolf Hitler's birthday and the seventh anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre read like some adolescent rant of alienation. But then, according to authorities, the message added that students at Riverton High School, in Riverton, Kan., "should wear bullet proof vests and flak jackets" to school on April 20.
By Tuesday, the inflammatory posting was the talk of the school and administrators began to investigate. Michaela Ferneau, a sophomore who was the main target of the attack, told an online friend in North Carolina about the plot. The friend then notified law enforcement.
Five male Riverton students were arrested Thursday on charges of planning a shooting rampage. Cherokee County sheriff's deputies found guns, ammunition, knives and encoded messages in the bedroom of one of the suspects. The boys could face charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
"Law enforcement was fully justified and acted in an efficient, professional and swift manner," said Phill Kline, Kansas' attorney general.
In the small community of Riverton, a town of 600, the suspects are well-known.
"I mean, it's kind of scary to know that people from a little town like this would even try anything like that," said Ferneau, who was the target because the suspects thought she alerted the school principal of the plot, even though she says she found out from a teacher who overheard the boys plotting.
Trenton Berry, a junior at Riverton High, called the suspects "the oddballs out of the school."
"Really, everybody picked on them and everything," he said.
TJ Stanley, who knows one of the arrested students well, said he "saw a few cases of kids messing with" one of the suspects, but that teachers really got on his case because he was a class clown.
"I think that the pressure of his friends got to him into this situation," said Stanley of the student.
Some students were skeptical that the suspects would have carried out their plan.
"Nobody in this school, I mean that I know of, would really do anything," said Jordan Adams, a freshman at Riverton. "They might talk about it. I think they were just blowing hot air."
But adults were shocked by the foiled plot.
"The kids are afraid to go to school," said Jamie Holman, a parent in Riverton. "We're thinking about homeschool. It's just ridiculous -- you can't send your child to school to learn."