Virginia Beach, VA – Police arrested two teenagers who they believe were planning a mass shooting at the Bayside High School prom on Saturday.
The investigation began on May 30 when police learned that people who were not students at Bayside had tried to buy tickets for the prom, WAVY reported. While attempting to buy a prom ticket wasn’t a crime, it was unusual enough to get the attention of school officials and law enforcement.
Police investigated and came to believe that the suspects were staying in the Westin Hotel where the prom was to be held, CNN reported.
Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera said his department coordinated with the school district and a tight security plan was developed that would allow the dance to continue despite the threat, WAVY reported.
Police were on the lookout for an 18-year-old suspect named Michael Coleman who had been identified as having made threats, according to CNN.
Coleman was spotted at the Westin on prom night, and police attempted to stop him. But he fled the scene, dropping a 9mm handgun as he ran, WUSA reported.
Police got a search warrant for Coleman’s room at the hotel, and when the entered it, they found his alleged 17-year-old accomplice with a loaded .45-caliber semi-automatic Hi-Point rifle and lots of extra ammunition, according to WUSA.
The armed juvenile found in the hotel room was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon and conspiracy to carry out a terrorist threat.
He was arraigned on Monday and ordered held in secure detention pending trial on June 27, a spokesman for the Office of the Commonwealth’s attorney told WAVY.
Norfolk police joined the investigation and Coleman was apprehended in Norfolk, where police said he was already wanted in connection with a shooting that had occurred the night before the prom in the 1500-block of Azalea Garden Road, WAVY reported.
Coleman was arrested and charged with two counts of carrying a concealed weapon and conspiracy to commit a terrorist act in connection with the planned prom attack.
He was also charged with four counts of attempted malicious wounding, four counts of use of a firearm, and four counts of reckless handling of a firearm for the incident the prior night, WAVY reported.
The police chief said that only through cooperation and coordination with the school district was the “potentially disastrous situation” stopped.
Bayside High School’s principal, Jim Miller, sent a reassuring message to the school community about the incident on Monday afternoon and addressed security at the school’s upcoming graduation.
“Over the weekend, two teens who do not attend Bayside High School were taken into custody following a criminal investigation. One of these teens was arrested at our prom’s hotel Saturday night,” Miller announced. “Please know that we take the safety of our students very seriously. In fact, extra security was on hand at the prom after police advised us of previous neighborhood incidents occurring within the Bayside school zone. I am grateful to the Virginia Beach Police Department and the school division’s Office of Safety and Loss Control who partnered with us to take the necessary steps to ensure our students could safely enjoy their senior prom.”
“Now, it is time for us to turn our attention to this week’s final exams and, of course, graduation,” the principal continued. “As a reminder, guests must have a ticket to attend the graduation ceremony at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. And, as in past years, attendees will be subject to security checks supervised by the Virginia Beach Police Department.”
Virginia Beach PD released a statement on Monday that reiterated the fact that they take all threats to schools seriously.