A Uniontown Area High School student is being hailed as a hero who may have prevented a school shooting.
Fayette County District Attorney Rich Bower said today the student overheard and recorded a conversation on the school bus Thursday afternoon about a 14-year-old’s plan to shoot four people at the city school today.
“Quite frankly the parents and the child who reported this are actually the heroes here,” Bower said. “Had they not reported this, there could have been a major tragedy at Uniontown High School.”
Police did not identify the student who came to police, nor did they identify the students who were allegedly targeted.
Bower said the 14-year-old Henry Clay Township student had several weapons in his bedroom, including a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun, two lever-action rifles, a revolver, two machetes, throwing knives and a crossbow with arrows. There was bulk ammunition for the weapons, Bower said.
The teen was taken into custody Thursday and is in a juvenile detention facility. Because he is a juvenile, his name was not released.
“He indicated that it would be extremely easy to sneak a gun into the school in his backpack, and he also indicated that he could use a sniper rifle from a distance or use a shotgun for mass casualties,” Bower said.
The school’s assistant superintendent, Dan Bosnic, disagreed with the claim that a shooting could have easily occurred.
“I don’t believe that to be the case. I think that, first of all safety is paramount in our district. The student safety is paramount,” he said.
Superintendent Charles Machesky issued a statement summarizing the incident and increased security measures taken Friday.
“The district would like to thank the Pennsylvania State Police, the Uniontown City Police, as well as our students, parents, and staff members for their assistance and efforts to ensure a safe and productive day of education,” he wrote.
Police are also working to investigate the threat of a shooting at Laurel Highlands High School, Bower said. Later in the evening Thursday, authorities received word of a threat to shoot students at the North Union Township school this coming Monday. Superintendent Jesse Wallace said the school will be closed to students Monday, although teachers will report to the school. State police will have an increased presence at the school throughout the week, he said.
Bower said authorities do not believe the Uniontown and Laurel Highlands shooting threats are related. State police were on the scene conducting interviews Friday.
Wallace said investigators identified people of interest, but he was not made aware of any arrests Friday afternoon.
After police were notified of the Uniontown threat, they worked with school police to notify the four students who were going to be targeted, Bower said.
He indicated that the 14-year-old did not tell police of a particular reason he intended to target those specific students.
“He just didn’t like them,” he said. “Do we always have to have a reason other than somebody doesn’t like them? That’s the interesting thing about this nowadays... These kids see way too much in the video games, this stuff on TV. He just didn’t like them. That’s what he said. He didn’t like them. What a reason to do something.”
He declined to comment on whether the student had been bullied.
Police were stationed at Uniontown’s schools, using a hand-held wand to check students on the way in on Friday. A trooper was also stationed on the student’s bus.
“It goes without saying that quite frankly there was probably a catastrophe averted today by the quick response by all involved. We can only thank God that the parent and the child called (police),” Bower said, calling the shooting “probably something that would’ve happened.”
The teen is charged with terroristic threats, possession of a firearm by a minor and attempt a commit a catastrophe.