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Utah school bomb plot: from inspiration to prevention, Columbine had a part

One suspect in the Utah high school bomb plot interviewed the Columbine principal in December. Police were tipped off by a friend of the suspect who received a suspicious message. 

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Students leave Roy High School, Friday, in Roy, Utah. A plan to detonate an explosive at the school was foiled when a student reported a strange text with a school administrator.

Jim Urquhart/AP

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An apparent school bombing plot foiled this week in Utah illustrates how much the Columbine massacre still resonates more than 10 years later.

One of the Utah suspects was so fascinated by the 1999 mass shootings at Colorado’s Columbine High School that he visited the school in December and interviewed the principal.

But the lessons of Columbine, including the importance of encouraging students to come forward about anything that might indicate a threat of school violence – also appear to have borne fruit in this case.

The 16-year-old suspect’s friend and classmate, Bailey Gerhardt, reported a suspicious text message to an administrator at Roy High School: “If I told you to stay home on a certain day, would you?” the text read, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

IN PICTURES: Photos of the day

The minor boy, as well as 18-year-old Roy High School student Dallin Morgan, were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of conspiracy to commit mass destruction. Police say months of planning went into their plot to set off a bomb during an assembly at the 1,500-student school and then try to escape by stealing an airplane.

No school assemblies were imminent, but had Bailey not come forward, “it could have been a disaster,” Roy police spokeswoman Anna Bond said Thursday. The minor had previously made a pipe bomb, and both students had information about school security cameras and had been using flight simulator software, police said.

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