PLAIN CITY, Weber County — A 16-year-old Fremont High student was arrested Monday after police say he took a loaded gun to school intending to "open fire" on fellow students.
But investigators said an alert student saw the gun and contacted authorities, which likely saved lives.
The high school junior with the gun, who was not identified, was booked into juvenile detention for investigation of possession of a weapon with intent to assault, possession of a firearm in a restricted area, and possession of a firearm by a minor. All potential charges are misdemeanors.
Deputies responded to the school, 1900 N. 4700 West, about 12:15 p.m. after another student saw the 16-year-old in possession of a gun, said Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Lane Findlay. A school resource officer contacted the teenage boy, who was cooperative, and confirmed he had a loaded handgun, he said, prompting the resource officer to call for additional units and to place the school in lockdown.
The teenager had reportedly been carrying the gun in his waistband.
"After interviewing the subject, he admitted to detectives that he brought the gun to school with the intent to shoot a particular student and then open fire on the rest of the school," Findlay said.
Findlay said the student the teen allegedly intended to target was a girl he had had some kind of relationship with in the past. Officers spoke to the girl and her family to alert them to the situation Monday.
"Obviously they were quite shaken by this," Findlay said.
When investigators initially asked the student whether anyone else was involved, he said he didn't know.
"So there was a little bit of concern initially if he was just alone and had the gun or if there was possibly another threat," Findlay said.
Because of that response, as a precaution, the sheriff's office began a sweep of the school, evacuating classrooms one by one. Students were being told to leave their backpacks behind, leaving the school with only their cell phones and car keys. The process took more than four hours.
About 70 law enforcement officers were at the school during the incident.
Sophomore Mitch Wall said all the students were searched.
"They took us out in the hallway, the SWAT team did, and they put us against the wall. They were searching our pants, our legs and everything, making sure we didn't have anything," he said.
"When you find out it's inside your school, you just never know what people are going to do," added student Kenley Rogers. "You never think it's going to happen to you."
Parents who heard about the lockdown were also concerned.
"My daughter just texted me in class and said they were in lockdown and standing up against the walls," said Heidi Stone.
"It's pretty scary, pretty scary," added parent Shelly Beesley. "You never think, you know in a farm community, this town out here's pretty quiet … that something like this would happen."
Weber County School District spokesman Nate Taggart said there was never an immediate threat to students.
"All students are safe and there was never anything that transpired other than a concern," he said.
Findlay said the actions of the student who reported seeing the gun helped authorities get control of the situation before anyone could be hurt.
"The quick response by law enforcement officers and school officials most certainly prevented this terrible tragedy from occurring," he said.
It was just a couple of weeks ago that the sheriff's office visited Fremont High and gave a presentation to students about this type of scenario, telling them that they should report anyone they believe might have a weapon.
"This student did exactly what we would hope for — saw a potential threat and alerted an officer," Findlay said.
Officers will return to the campus as a precaution when students return Tuesday.
Contributing: Mike Anderson
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