Sunday, March 29, 2009

Breaking The Columbine Copycat Effect

As the 10th anniversary of Columbine creeps closer, positive news as well as the negative can occur.

One such story presented itself a couple weeks ago when a Canadian university student prevented a firebomb act against a United Kingdom high school.

It may be forgotten by the general public that besides the shootings at Columbine, the final act of the scenario was suppose to be the school going up in flames. That has been remembered by some who would copycat the Columbine event.

Andrew Chung at the Toronto Star has written a detailed article summarizing a recent incident:

A Concordia University student who helped thwart a potential firebombing at a British high school is being recognized for his efforts on both sides of the Atlantic.

J. P. Neufeld was on an online forum Tuesday [St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2009] morning when he spotted a new posting entitled, "This is it," threatening to attack the school in Norfolk in the east of England. He immediately telephoned police there.

An armed 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday [March 17, 2009] and detained.


"When I saw his posting, I thought, `If I don't do something, I'm going to spend the rest of my life regretting it, knowing I could have made a difference, to call somebody before somebody got hurt," he explained. "Especially with Columbine and everything," he said of the 1999 high school massacre in Colorado.

Neufeld was on the music and animation sharing website Tuesday morning [March 17, 2009] when he spotted the posting.

Probing into it, he discovered that its author, a teenager nicknamed "sirtom93," was making a threat against his school.

"Today [March 17, 2009] at 11:30 GMT I will attack my school with arson and other forms of violence," wrote the teen, who has not been named by police. "Those bastards will pay."

He also posted a picture of a gas can, and a screen shot from the infamous Columbine school surveillance tapes. He also wrote, "I have cans, matches, lighter, knives, compressed explosives. S--- will go down in flames."

By this time, before 7 a.m., Neufeld was phoning the Norfolk police. Just before sirtom93, who in other postings has called himself a communist, left his house, he posted a link to a video on police brutality. Police were waiting for the teen at Attleborough High School. Searching his bag, police said they found a knife, matches, and a canister of flammable liquid.

He was detained under Britain's Mental Health Act.

"I just hope the kid gets the help he needs," Neufeld said.

Chris Kitching of the Winnipeg Sun also observed:

Neufeld has been swarmed with calls from reporters on both sides of the Atlantic and received accolades from British authorities and strangers, including one who sent him $50....

"He said he wanted to buy me a drink," said Neufeld, a student in Concordia University's electroacoustics program.

Some have called him a hero.

"If that's the kind of word they use to describe people who do the right thing, then I'm fine with that," Neufeld said. "You like to think that anyone else who was in the same situation would have called the police, as well."

Andrew Chung concurred:

Now, Neufeld is being hailed as a hero not only on the Internet, but Concordia will recognize him with a special certificate at its annual awards dinner April 2 for, as dean of students Beth Morey said, "having the courage to get involved."

In addition, the Norfolk Constabulary's chief of police has sent him a letter of thanks. And on the website, a number of students from Attleborough High School have thanked him for "saving" them.

"If people want to call me a hero for making a phone call, so be it. But there are people out there more deserving than I am," said Neufeld, a Winnipeg native studying electro-acoustics at Concordia's music department. The modest 21-year-old computer junkie makes music for computer games, among other things.

Thank You.

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