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Could it happen here?

Andy Bourelle

When a murder plot orchestrated by teen-agers is uncovered so close to home, the recent events at Yerington High School beg the question – could it happen here?

“It can happen anywhere,” said Sheriff Ron Pierini on Friday. “That’s a part of life, but the best thing we can do is be as prepared as we can be.”

Yerington, a 67-mile drive from the Minden-Gardnerville area, was the location of an alleged murder plot. One 15-year-old boy was arrested and four other alleged accomplices were questioned Thursday before a rumored plan for mass murder at a Yerington High School could be carried out at an assembly yesterday.

The assembly has been canceled. The question of whether it was a prank that got out of hand or something which could have been as serious as the Dec. 1 killing of three high school students in Kentucky still has not been answered. But, the events do raise shock and wonder from area law enforcement officials and school administrators.

“My reaction was shock,” said Douglas High School Principal Bev Jeans. “I can only imagine the tremendous nightmare that would be for parents, students and staff.”

“It’s outrageous and unthinkable,” said Sgt. Lance Modispacher, “but it’s happened other places.”

Law enforcement officials have continual, open communication with the county schools, to help prevent – as much as possible – situations like this.

“The sheriff’s office has great faith in our school district, in its administrators,” Modispacher said. “We work very close with them.”

Pierini said the sheriff’s office tries to maintain open communications not only with the schools but also with the youth of the community.

“One of the things we’ve tried to do is have good communication with the schools and the students,” Pierini said. “We always try to take a proactive rather than reactive approach. We try to use that open communication as a preventative tool.”

Jeans agreed.

“They (the members of the sheriff’s office) are tremendously supportive of the students and the school,” she said.

The administrators at Douglas High School do not tolerate violence or weapons within the school. If there is ever a reason to be concerned, Jeans said, school administrators and sheriff’s deputies investigate, often for the benefit of the student or students in question, rather than the rest of the students.

In Yerington, one student heard of the alleged plot and told a parent, who contacted school authorities. The county sheriff’s office and school agreed he did the right thing.

“We’re very thankful one of the students was responsible and mature enough to come forward,” Modispacher said.

“I think it’s wonderful they were able to get advance information about it,” Jeans said. “A lot of times students don’t want to – what they call it is ‘narc’ – on another student. I think it’s wonderful the student had the courage to tell someone.”

Steven McCabe is the name of the boy arrested in Yerington. Officers from the Yerington Police Department found various types of ammunition in his locker but no guns. Officers also found a written list of students who agreed to participate, who refused to participate and a list of people who were not to be killed. McCabe was taken to the Carson City Juvenile Detention Facility.

Members of the Yerington Police Department were unsure of whether or not it had only been an out-of-hand joke, but said they were taking it seriously.

Modispacher said he thought the Yerington police handled the situation well.

“If they have folks in custody, the parents can be thankful,” said Modispacher. “I think they did very, very well.”

Jeans said it is a federal law that any student caught with firearms or explosive devices, including gun ammunition, on school ground be suspended for a minimum of one year. McCabe will be facing that punishment in addition to whatever legal action is taken against him.