Police in Montgomery County today filed charges against a 15-year-old Pottstown student who planned a Columbine-style shooting at Pottstown High School next year with his father's guns.
Richard Yanis, a freshman at the high school, told police that he concocted a scheme to "go into the school shooting, shoot everyone he did not like, and then himself," District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.
The teen planned to use three firearms and ammunition that he had stolen from his father's gun collection, and gave them to a friend to hold, Ferman said at a news conference in Norristown.
But the plan unraveled when the 16-year-old friend, a fellow student at Pottstown High, showed the guns to his stepmother. She drove him to the Manatawny Creek in Pottstown's River Front Park, where the teen dumped the guns into the water, Ferman said.
Police, alerted to the theft of the guns by the suspect's father, Michael Yanis, 52, began an intense investigation Nov. 11. That culminated Thursday when authorities moved in and took Richard Yanis to a secure facility.
Ferman would not characterize the facility other than to say it was local. Yanis will be tried later as an adult because the juvenile crimes code doesn't include attempted murder with a deadly weapon.
Neither the 16-year-old friend nor his stepmother has been charged with any crime, but the investigation continues, Ferman said.
The district attorney credited police and school authorities with collaborating to uncover the plot and detain Yanis before he did any harm.
"This is a story about a tragedy being averted because of the careful work by everyone involved," Ferman said. "This could have been anyone's worst nightmare."
The district attorney described the suspect as "an outcast, loner who didn't have many friends."
"He was picked on," Ferman said. "He felt like he didn't fit in very well."
The boy was once a top student, but his grades had dropped recently, causing him to repeat ninth grade, Ferman said. Yanis also suffered from depression.
A man who said he was a family friend declined comment. He answered the phone at the Yanis home on Feist Avenue in Pottstown.
"The family has no comment, and they ask for privacy as they deal with this issue," he said.
Pottstown Superintendent David Krem said the district's 3,200 students and their parents learned of the scheme Tuesday through Global Connect, an Internet-based calling system that dialed each home and left a recorded message.
The high school principal also went on closed-circuit TV to brief pupils.
"The most important message is that they were never in any danger," Krem said.