Police say they averted a possible shooting at a Utah high school after receiving a tip that led them to social media messages from the 15-year-old girl who allegedly planned to carry it out.
The girl, a student at Weber High in Pleasant View, has since been arrested and charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction, a first-degree felony. Authorities, though, said they did not find any explosive substances in their search at her home. In a video, she claims to have been making the chemical compound napalm.
The Salt Lake Tribune received the charging documents for the teenager in a public records request to the juvenile court system. But the newspaper is not identifying her at this time, in part because she is a minor.
“Fortunately, early intervention and action by law enforcement prevented any violence,” Weber School District said in a statement Tuesday.
Though the tip in this case came from the FBI, students are also encouraged to report any threats they see on social media or hear from classmates. They can do that anonymously through the SafeUT app, by calling the hotline there at 833-372-3388 or by calling local police or talking to school administrators and teachers.
Lane Findlay, the spokesman for the district, said: “That’s really key in these type of cases. Everyone has a sense of responsibility for their own safety. You may hear or see something that’s cause for concern. Bring that to the attention of school officials or law enforcement.”
In this case, the district said, to its knowledge, “there was never an imminent danger to the school or other students.”
It declined to release further information, citing student privacy. A warrant for the girl’s arrest provides some details.
A detective with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office wrote in the affidavit that he first received the tip about threatening messages on Instagram from the FBI on Sept. 23. The girl allegedly wrote in one that she wanted to carry out an attack on Weber High “like Columbine,” according to the documents.
That refers to the deadly 1999 shooting — and failed bombing — at Columbine High School in Colorado where two students killed 12 classmates and one teacher.
The detective said he went to the girl’s house, where she gave him her iPhone. On that, he found further messages, videos and an online diary where she apparently talked about trying to make a bomb and getting access to a gun. She allegedly planned the attack for April 2024, the document said.
In one video, she appears to be manufacturing napalm and lights it on fire in a test. She also wrote in a note that she stored explosives in the shed behind her family’s house. None were found in a search.
“Further investigation is taking place, but we are confident at this point that there were no other students, or suspects involved,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
The department also credits its detectives for acting quickly to investigate. The girl is currently being held in juvenile detention. She had no previous record.