The Benton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an attempted murder plot at Kiona-Benton City High School.
Two boys and a girl, all 16, plotted to kill an 18-year-old classmate Nov. 15, according to a release from sheriff’s Sgt. Bob Brockman.
Sheriff Jerry Hatcher said school officials learned of the potential threat that day, but they didn’t report it to sheriff’s detectives until Tuesday.
But there have been conflicting reports on when sheriff’s officials were told. School officials said in a short statement late Wednesday that the sheriff’s office was notified earlier but no details were released.
The students schemed for about a week to lure the male classmate to the back of Ki-Be Red Apple Market, 1215 Horne Drive, on Nov. 15.
The students then planned to kill him with a knife.
That day, two other students saw someone behind the market in an orchard, wearing a red mask.
The students started challenging the person. Each time they approached, the man retreated until he finally ran away into the orchard.
The intended victim went to the market and came back to school without being harmed.
Sheriff Jerry Hatcher confirmed that sheriff’s detectives did not learn about the incident until Tuesday.
The 18-year-old was new to the school and “disrupted the flow” of the social order, Brockman said.
Investigators believe one of the boys, who is being held at the Benton-Franklin juvenile detention center in Kennewick, was the mastermind behind the plot.
The other boy and girl are with their parents, Brockman said. It will be up to prosecutors to determine how to charge them.
School administrators learned of the incident the same day, Brockman said. They emergency expelled one boy and the girl Nov. 16, but didn’t learn about the second boy’s involvement until Wednesday.
Brockman said he didn’t know why sheriff’s detectives didn’t learn about the threats sooner.
Hatcher confirmed that detectives did not learn about the incident until Tuesday.
The Kiona-Benton City School District said in a statement released by Superintendent Wade Haun after 7 p.m. Wednesday that a school official was “made aware that certain district students may have discussed a plan to harm another student.”
The district’s release says that “the matter was immediately looked into, the sheriff’s department contacted and students were emergency expelled.”
The district further said that the incident was investigated, evidence gathered and then was referred to the district’s School Resource Officer, a sheriff’s deputy.
“After conducting a preliminary investigation, the SRO referred the matter to the sheriff’s department detectives, who are conducting a thorough inquiry.
“District staff reacted accordingly and promptly upon receiving information suggesting that a student may have been at risk,” said the release.
Ki-Be’s school resource officer, Deputy Brad Klippert, told the Herald he was not at the school at the time of the incident.
Klippert, R-Kennewick, said he was in Olympia representing the 8th District, but became aware of the investigation on Tuesday.
The Herald’s attempts to reach Haun and school board President Leslie Johnson were not successful.
Residents, parents and natives of Benton City expressed dismay at the plot on the Herald’s Facebook page.
Some also expressed outrage Wednesday night that the school and district didn’t let parents know sooner what was going on.
“The school officials should be fired for not reporting it right away!” said Angie Gonzalez Yanez, a Benton City native.
“Yet no parents were notified,” said Cindy Loowhoo, a Benton City resident. “Had to find out through fb...”
At least one employee commented, “They didn’t even send out a staff email.”
The district, motivated by past violence and the mass shooting at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, authorized in 2015 arming some school officials to respond in cases of emergency.
Ki-Be High School is no stranger to violent student incidents.
Bob Mars, 44, a teacher and coach was stabbed to death in September 2004 in the middle school’s main building by two stranded Tri-City teens who planned to steal his car.
Jordan E. Castillo — the one who actually stabbed Mars — got almost 30 years in prison. His co-defendant, Robert A. Suarez, was sentenced to almost 27 years.
The teens used a bogus phone call excuse to get close to Mars, then ended up smashing a rock through his truck’s window and stealing a sack of Ritz crackers, a cellphone and $474 in cash.
Reporters Cameron Probert and Kristin M. Kraemer contributed to this story.