Oct 042006
 
Authors: JAMES BAETKE The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Amid a week of local and national school shootings, police believe they may have thwarted an attack aimed toward Englewood High School after arresting a student Tuesday who allegedly made threats about “shooting up the school” and “taking hostages.”

Police arrested 19-year-old Blake Hicks at his residence on Tuesday in Englewood, a suburb south of Denver.

Police found a semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle, 280 rounds of ammunition and a paintball gun in the hatchback of his car.

The gun was unloaded and in a case.

John Hoehler, spokesman for Englewood’s department of safety services, said he believes students and school staff helped stop another high school shooting in Colorado.

“It is a very real possibility something was adverted,” Hoehler said.

Prabha Unnithan, a CSU sociology professor who specializes in criminology, says high school shootings are part of today’s culture where “crime is social behavior.”

“Whenever there is a crime that is widely reported, a bunch of copycat behavior shows up,” Unnithan said.

Administration at Englewood High School was tipped off Tuesday when students encountered Hicks on school grounds making threats after knowing he was recently suspended from the school, police said.

Two hours after the call, police arrested Hicks and sent him to the Arapahoe County Jail. Charged with a misdemeanor count of interference with an educational institution, Hicks’ bond is set at $500,000, an amount normally placed at $1,000.

Hoehler says the bond was set higher after investigators convinced a judge of the “seriousness of the case.”

In the past month, school shootings in Montreal, Colorado, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have made headlines, leaving many to question whether these shootings trigger emotions in people to mock similar attacks.

“Imitation is clearly at work here,” Unnithan said.

School shootings have increased in the last 10 years, Unnithan said, mainly resulting from a changing culture of fast lives, video games and increased violence.

This increase, especially since the Columbine shootings, has prompted Englewood High School’s Superintendent James McCabe to regularly practice lockdown drills throughout his district.

“Over time, people get lax, so we practice these things all the time, including lockdowns,” McCabe said.

The district decided not to lock down schools related to the alleged threats made by Hicks based on the fact he was arrested quickly and no imminent danger was present.

“If they thought someone could enter the high school, we would have called a lockdown,” McCabe said.

Unnithan said that although social factors may contribute to violent school shootings there are individuals’ actions and decisions made in each of these recent cases, and it all cannot be blamed on society.

It is likely the alleged threats of Hicks and recent shootings across the nation are the end result of growing frustrations, bottled emotions and problems developed over time by these individuals, he said.

“We are never going to know what may have happened and we are happy about that,” Hoehler said.

Staff writer James Baetke can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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