By P. Solomon Banda
DENVER — Two teens arrested in New Mexico on suspicion of burglary and theft had planned a shooting spree at a rural southwestern Colorado high school as early as this week, according to a sheriff who said he was among the targets.
Dolores County Sheriff Jim Martin said Thursday that the main force behind the plot, a 16-year-old, also planned to shoot his principal of Dove Creek High School and Martin's undersheriff, then use the law enforcement officers' weapons to continue shooting. Others at the school, including the superintendent, also were targeted, Martin said.
Martin said sheriff's deputies recovered seven rifles, including .22-caliber weapons, shotguns and an M1 carbine, at the Dove Creek home of the 16-year-old, and three more weapons when the teens were arrested in New Mexico.
"It was probably going to take place this week," Martin said. "He had the resources and capability to do this."
Authorities learned of the plot after the other suspect, 19-year-old Cody Barr, told his family about it, Martin told The Associated Press via phone from Cortez, where he had dropped Barr off at the Montezuma County jail.
No charges have been brought in the alleged school plot in Dove Creek, a town of about 700 near the Utah line and about 250 miles southwest of Denver. A message left at the school was not immediately returned.
The two were wanted on Colorado warrants for three felony burglaries, including a burglary at the juvenile's grandparents' home where thousands of dollars in cash and seven to 10 weapons were stolen.
In New Mexico, San Juan County Undersheriff Mark McCloskey told the The Daily Times of Farmington that the Dove Creek teens were arrested Monday in a trailer east of Bloomfield where they had been hiding out. Both were extradited to Colorado on Thursday, Martin said.
The 16-year-old was being held at a juvenile detention center in La Plata County.
Martin would not confirm the name of the juvenile because of his age, though McCloskey provided it to the paper. No phone numbers were listed for either teen in Dove Creek, and it wasn't immediately known if either had an attorney.
The sheriff said both teens were involved in the plot, though it was primarily the 16-year-old who wanted to carry it out. He said the younger suspect "named the undersheriff and myself as targets and the idea was to take our weapons to continue with the shooting."
"He spent a lot of time thinking about this," Martin said.
Martin said Barr told him on the drive up from New Mexico on Thursday that the 16-year-old had planned to assault the school twice before and that Barr had talked him out of the plot. One planned assault was delayed because the school was on spring break.
Martin said investigators learned from the 16-year-old's family that the teen showed a marked change after a shotgun accident involving the boy's brother in 2005 wounded a friend.
"From that point forward his attitude turned 180 degrees," Martin said. "The family fears for its safety at this point."
Martin said the 16-year-old wasn't allowed on campus in the fall after showing up at school in a trench coat, his face painted white, and apparently didn't return to school.
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"It was against dress code," Martin said.