Planned attack at Paw Paw HS stopped; 15-year-old student arrested
PAW PAW, Mich. – A 15-year-old Paw Paw High School student who amassed an arsenal of pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails and two stolen sawed-off shotguns was arrested Sunday, just one day before police believe he planned to attack his school.
“Detectives were very confident in the fact that he had 100 percent intentions on carrying through with it [Monday] morning,” said Daniel Abbott, the sheriff of Van Buren County.
The Paw Paw Public Schools District was closed on Monday following the arrest of the 15-year-old on Sunday.
“It makes you not want to let your kids go any place and make sure you know where they’re at at all times and make sure you meet the parents of their friends before you send them to their house,” said Jennifer Riegle, whose son is a current Paw Paw High School student.
Sheriff Abbott said the boy’s family came to police Sunday afternoon with concerns.
Investigators interviewed everyone involved and eventually got a search warrant for the boy’s home.
Inside, they found the boy had pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails and two sawed-off shotguns he had stolen from a family member and reconfigured so they could fit in his backpack.
“The one time that you take something lightly, something tragic is going to happen,” Abbott said.
That’s the sheriff’s message to his community, which has now seen three students in separate school districts get arrested in 2018 for threatening their schools.
Paw Paw Superintendent Sonia Lark addressed students and their families in a statement on Monday:
“We are relieved that our students are safe and we are grateful for the investigative work done by the law enforcement officials from Van Buren County Sheriff's Office and Paw Paw Police Department. The staff at Paw Paw Public Schools will be supportive to students when they return to school on Tuesday. We will reassure them of their safety at school and remind them of all the school safety precautions we have in place. We are thankful for all the positive encouragement from our parents and community members.”
Investigators determined the 15-year-old boy was going to carry out the attack alone.
Abbott said the school district had no idea it was coming.
He said this is a prime example of ‘If you see something, say something’ paying off.
“I can honestly say if it wasn’t for the family coming forth and helping us the way that they did, we probably wouldn’t be where we’re at today,” Abbott said.
Paw Paw Schools will reopen on Tuesday with an increased police presence.
Abbott said police did check out the high school on Sunday and determined there was no threat on school property.
The suspect has not been named yet and we don’t yet know his disciplinary record at school or why he wanted to carry out the attack.
Abbott said it appears the suspect has mental health issues.
The boy is being charged with several crimes, including terroristic threats, possession of stolen firearms, two counts of sawed-off shotguns, and bomb making materials.