Fifth-graders conspire to kill classmates

A fourth-grade student at Fort Colville Elementary School in Colville is being hailed as a hero and two fellow students are in a juvenile detention facility, suspected of plotting to kill up to eight classmates. The two fifth-grade students were escorted in shackles into a Stevens County courtroom last Friday afternoon to face charges of conspiracy to commit murder. Superior Court Judge Allen Nielson ordered the 10 and 11-year-old boys held on $100,000 bonds. They are expected to be formally charged in juvenile court with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, possession of a firearm and witness tampering. Judge Nielson scheduled a Feb. 20 hearing that will ostensibly determine whether the juveniles had the capacity and capability to commit the crime they are accused of planning. The two students, who were expelled from Fort Colville School for a year after admitting to their plan, were transported back to Martin Hall Juvenile Facility near Medical Lake following the hearing. Students sees knife on school bus The Fort Colville Elementary School students were taken into custody shortly after arriving at school last Thursday morning by school bus. A Fort Colville Elementary School instructional assistant had been told by the fourth grade student that he had seen the two students with a knife while they rode the bus to school. A search of a backpack carried by one of the boys revealed a knife, a handgun and ammunition. The gun was reportedly not loaded. The gun had reportedly been stolen. No other details were provided. Subsequent interviews by Colville Police shortly after the search of the backpack revealed that the two friends intended to use the weapons sometime during the school day on Thursday. Another student who reportedly knew about the plan, but chose not to say anything, has been expelled from school for 45 days, according to Colville School Superintendent Michael Cashion. Cashion was appreciative of the fourth grade student and staff members for their handling of what could have been a situation with a far worse outcome. “We are grateful to the fourth grade student who saw something and said something,” Cashion said last Friday. “He is a hero…we can’t offer enough praise.” Cashion said he felt the student said something at least, in part, because of the district’s “Character Counts curriculum.” The third student who apparently knew about the plan and the intended targets, was also allegedly offered $80 by the boys to keep quiet. Cashion also lauded Fort Colville Elementary School staff for their intervention prior to the start of the school day last Thursday. “I can’t commend the staff enough for their swift intervention and finding a firearm and a knife in that backpack,” Cashion added. “The (Colville) Police arrived on scene in what amounted to seconds and there was no threat presented.” School staff fielded scores of telephone calls from anxious and sometimes irate parents wondering what was happening. Cashion defended the staff decision not to go into lock-down status because of the incident. No threat “There was no threat presented,” Cashion said. “We did not go into lock-down because the possible threat was terminated. We put out a statement as soon as we felt we had the full and complete story.” Some parents have questioned why parents were not called immediately by school staff. “There was no threat…most staff and students didn’t know what was going on and it didn’t disrupt school (on Thursday),” the superintendent added. “Why initiate chaos?” Cashion added that he didn’t think the incident “could have been handled any better by staff.” The superintendent thanked parents who called Fort Colville Elementary School, the district office and school board members “with constructive remarks and support.” Parents were all alerted by about 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. Cashion said that every class at the school was visited and briefed on what happened. “This is a very sad event, but it was handled very professionally, correctly and in a very timely fashion by (Fort Colville Elementary School) Principal (Clayton) Allen’s team and by (Colville Chief of Police) Bob Meshishnek’s department.” The two students readily admitted to what they planned to do and offered a list of students they intended to target, according to Cashion. Motive for the plot still remains unclear. “We have been informed that the boys had a plan to kill an ex-girlfriend—I don’t know what that means in fifth grade—and hurt other students,” Cashion added. “There wasn’t a list, but names were given to the police (by the youngsters).” The investigation is continuing by both Colville Police and the Stevens County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.