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Montco teen accused of school-shooting plot

Most people ring in the New Year with champagne and confetti. But 15-year-old Richard Yanis is not most people.

Most people ring in the New Year with champagne and confetti.

But 15-year-old Richard Yanis is not most people.

Police said the ninth-grader planned to ring in the New Year with a hail of gunfire when he returned to Pottstown High from winter break Jan. 2.

Montgomery County officials said Yanis, who recently stole a handful of weapons from his father's locked gun cabinet, planned, with the help of a friend, "to shoot students in the school and then himself," according to the affidavit of probable cause, released yesterday at a news conference held by Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman.

That friend, along with quick thinking from school officials and the police department, led to the thwarting of the attack, Ferman said.

"This is a story of a tragedy being averted," Ferman said. "If it had taken place, it would have been a story of someone's worst nightmare."

The investigation began Nov. 11 when Yanis' father, Michael, reported to police that three of his guns were stolen.

"Mr. Yanis was not able to pinpoint exactly when the guns were stolen, and his son claimed he knew nothing about the theft," Ferman said.

The weapons that were stolen were a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver, a Smith & Wesson .22 semi-automatic pistol and a Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol. Close to 300 rounds of ammunition were also reported missing, police said.

Ferman said that Yanis also planned to tell several of his friends not to go to school on the date he planned to carry out his attack.

Last Thursday, police interviewed a friend of Yanis' who told them that Yanis had asked him to "hold onto" a bag for him.

The friend, whom police are not identifying because he has not been charged with any crime, told cops of Yanis' plot and showed them where the guns were.

Yanis' friend showed his stepmother the guns, and she drove him to a nearby creek, where they dropped them in.

Ferman said that the mother has not been charged but may be if police determine that she acted criminally in directing her son to get rid of the weapons.

Pottstown school officials notified parents and students of the plot yesterday through a pre-recorded voice-mail message.

"At first blush, he could really be any kid," Ferman said.

"But he does fit many of the warning signs of someone that could be responsible for something like this," she added. "He was described by friends as being an outcast, a loner, and picked on.

"This was simply his reaction to feeling like he didn't fit in."

Yanis faces charges of attempted murder, weapons offenses, theft, risking a catastrophe, possessing instruments of crime and lying to police, according to the affidavit.

He has been institutionalized since Thursday and will be arrested and arraigned at a later date, authorities said. *