Teen with alleged 'hit list' may face more charges
Published Tuesday, June 2, 2009 6:00PM PDT
A Vancouver teen accused of posting a "hit list" of fellow students on the social networking site Facebook made his first court appearance Tuesday.
The 18-year-old Templeton Secondary School student faces seven weapons-related charges in an expanding criminal case by the Vancouver Police Department.
He has been remanded into custody until Friday, when the date for a bail hearing will be set.
Insp. Scott Thompson, in charge of youth services for the Vancouver Police, says more charges are possible and that threat assessors will be brought in to determine the seriousness of the threat.
Defence lawyer David Karp says there's nothing to suggest this was a potential Colombine -- where two students at the Colorado high school killed 11 fellow students and a teacher in 1999.
He says his client has no criminal record or history of behaviour problems and did not take any weapons to school.
High school students worried about online threats by the 18-year-old prompted police to arrest the teen Friday.
Insp. Thompson said officers found the hit list after they were contacted by six students worried about the Facebook postings of a fellow student.
"It was reported that the male had a firearm and ammunition, as well as a hit list of staff and students at their high school," Thompson told a news conference Monday.
Of the 117 names on the list, 71 were identified as staff and students, he said.
Police say a shotgun, ammunition, a machete, a sword, a knife and two collapsible metal batons were seized from the teen's house, as well as a computer and other materials.
Fit for trial
Karp said a brief psychological assessment was done after his arrest to ensure he was fit to stand trial. No further evaluation is planned, he said.
"He's coherent, he's cognizant," Karp said in an interview. "He's quiet and he's obviously quite concerned with the situation he's in."
Karp said the accused teen and his family, which includes a younger sister, emigrated from China in the mid-1990s. His parents do not speak English and his father commutes back and forth from Hong Kong.
The boy has never been suspended or expelled from school and has never had contact with police, the lawyer said.
How his classmates see it
Although Thompson described the investigation as "one of the most serious" of its kind, students at the school appeared unfazed Monday.
Daniel Brown, 17 and in Grade 12, said his name was on the list.
"I'm not surprised," he said.
"We'd been talking and he said `By the way, you're number 25.' I asked him about it and he said that this is the number that you're on my list, basically that I'm going to kill you in."
Brown said the threat was made a couple of months ago and he originally thought it was a joke.
Police and school board officials are crediting the students for reporting the disturbing postings.
"When you examine other school-based incidents across North America, it's a very common pattern that the classmates of the individuals involved are aware that something is wrong," said Thompson.
"They dismiss those threats or concerns, they minimize them, they don't take them seriously. So our message has always been...that it's really important for students to come forward when they have information such as this."
Sarah England, 17 and also in Grade 12, said she didn't know the student arrested and didn't think her name was on the list.
England said none of the students she spoke to seemed to be panicking.
"I think everyone's pretty calm about it right now. They feel a bit nervous about what's happening."
She described the Facebook site as "pretty intense."
"There were pictures of guns and machetes," England said.
"I'm just really happy now that he is in custody and that someone actually told the police about this...before it could get out of hand."
Chris Kelly, superintendent of schools for the Vancouver Board of Education, said the investigation has been "broad and it is intense."
He stressed that it was the combined efforts of police, staff, parents and students.
"Most significant for us is that we're standing before you today, describing a potential incident that didn't happen," he told the media Monday.
Police say there are no immediate concerns for the safety of the staff, students and others at the school.
With files from The Canadian Press