Baldwin teen questioned about possible plans to disrupt Maple Leaf Festival
Possible plans that involved using pipe bombs and firearms at this weekend's Maple Leaf Festival were interrupted by Baldwin police last week.
A 15-year-old Baldwin youth was questioned by the Baldwin City Police Department and his house searched after police learned of the plans for violence at the annual festival, which had been posted in a journal format on an Internet Web site.
"This deeply troubled student had proposed a plan of what they would need to commit a desperate act against the people of Baldwin, against the community at large," Police Chief Mike McKenna said. "The plan included numerous guns and pipe bombs and a desire to obtain remote detonation devices. The time talked about was the Maple Leaf Festival."
McKenna declined to identify the sex of the youth or state whether the 15-year-old was a Baldwin student in an effort to protect the privacy of the family.
Police were notified of the plans, he said, after the youth's classmate read the postings on the Web site.
"The classmate's parents contacted us, which enabled us to react to this potentially very dangerous situation before it was completed," he said.
McKenna said the student used the Web site journal for the past several months to post personal thoughts.
"The student was expressing themself and their feelings about events that occurred to them that day or that week," he said. "The student would express anger at times in the postings and talk about acts of violence that would make people regret the way they had treated the student."
The journal entries also went into specific detail about the student's plans, using the pipe bombs and guns, to disrupt the Maple Leaf Festival, which annually attracts thousands of people to Baldwin.
"The examples were thought out to the point of what type of end caps to purchase to put on pipe bombs, what black powder was necessary to make the bombs and the cost of the items had been estimated." McKenna said.
"There was a plan to remove the police officers away from Baldwin by starting a grass fire and thereby enabling the acts to be committed here in town," he said. "And the student had expressed the knowledge of dying and a prediction of when that death would be over."
McKenna would not release the name of the Web site, but said the student's entries could no longer be accessed.
He said police searched the student's house, but found nothing that had been described in the Web journal.
"The parents of the house allowed Baldwin police officers to conduct a complete and thorough search of the house and its grounds," he said. "We found no evidence of any instruments or weapons the student was trying to procure."
McKenna said the Douglas County District Attorney was not going to file charges against the student.
"Their feeling was that since a particular individual had not been identified as to having a terroristic threat made against them, there would be no charges filed in the case," he said.
But he said the parents were getting medical help for the student.
"The parents have been very open and willing to help get their teenager the help and assistance they need to recover from the state of mind they're in," he said.
McKenna said he hoped the event would serve as a reminder to parents to communicate with their children.
"I think it's important parents talk with their teenagers and have good communication with them, and hopefully they are able to pick up or identify their child's signals to help prevent something of this grave nature occurring," he said.
"It would have been both a personal and community tragedy had this event been carried out."
(Editor's note: McKenna's usage of "themself," "they" and "they're" in describing the student's thoughts was intentional as to not reveal the student's sex.)