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Published: Thursday, 1/13/2005

Youth questioned in school threat

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TECUMSEH, Mich. - A 17-year-old Tecumseh youth has been questioned by police after he allegedly made threats in e-mails to carry out an armed attack on Tecumseh High School, where he formerly was a student.

The youth, a senior at Adrian High School whom police would not name, allegedly made the threats in e-mails to his Wayland, Mich., girlfriend. Wayland police were told about the messages Monday by a Wayland Public Schools security officer who was told of the e-mails by a Wayland student who had overheard a conversation on the subject at school.

Wayland is in Allegan County on Lake Michigan, 135 miles west of Tecumseh. Wayland police contacted Tecumseh police, who began investigating Monday afternoon.

Tuesday morning, police met with the youth and his family in their Tecumseh home, Sgt. John Clark said.

"[The youth] told us he was venting, that he was angry, but he claims he didn't mean it," Sergeant Clark said.

"[They] were very cooperative, and it was determined there was no immediate threat to the school or any students or faculty at the school," said police Chief Mack Haun.

Police had access to the girlfriend's e-mails but not the Tecumseh youth's.

They confiscated the family's computer, which has been shipped to the Michigan State Police's technical services department for analysis.

"They will check the content of his messages," Sergeant Clark said. "Until we have that, we really can't do much."

He said the youth's father owns weapons that are registered, but they are locked in a safe to which the youth does not have access.

Yesterday, reporters converged on Tecumseh seeking information on the case.

"It has been blown way out of proportion," Sergeant Clark said.

Nevertheless, the department has been working nonstop on the case since Monday.

"It was taken very seriously then, and it's being taken very seriously now," Sergeant Clark said.

The youth could face charges under the federal anti-terrorism law.

The case marked the second time in four months that threats of school attacks allegedly were communicated to people over the Internet in Michigan.

In September, a 16-year-old Idaho girl told authorities she received threats from a 17-year-old boy at Chippewa Valley High School in Macomb County. The teen was accused of planning to hurt students and a police officer at the school.

A police raid at the home of Andrew Osantowski found weapons, ammunition, bomb-making materials, and books about white supremacy.

During a preliminary examination yesterday, young Osantowski was ordered to stand trial on a charge of threatening terrorism and several counts related to a gun shop burglary and the thefts of golf carts and power tools.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact George Tanber at:

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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