UPDATE: Officials told us on Friday the two boys had made bond and were released to their parents. The sheriff says the charges on which they were detained is part of the sealed juvenile record.
PAWNEE -- A multi-agency effort has led to the thwarting of an alleged plan for a school shooting, Pawnee County Sheriff Mike Waters says.
Two juveniles, both sophomores at Pawnee High School, were arrested on Tuesday and evidence linking the boys to the threat was recovered, authorities say.
“Everyone involved, from the reporting party to investigators, did what they were supposed to do, and the threat was intercepted," Waters said.
Pawnee Public Schools are not in session until Aug. 24, but Waters said the boys had a thought-out plan on how to attack once the school opened. The sheriff said the teens wanted to carry out a mass shooting and then commit double suicide.
According to Pawnee Police Chief Wesley Clymer, the investigation still is open, although it is "all but over." In the meantime, there is very little the FBI, which is heading the investigation, will allow local authorities to say regarding the case.
Another source close to the investigation said multiple guns were in the boys' possession when their homes were searched.
Longtime Superintendent of Pawnee Schools Ned Williams told us Clymer brought the tip to his attention initially. Someone outside of the U.S. reportedly sent the tip when they became concerned about things the Pawnee juveniles were discussing while playing online video games.
The alleged threat was sent to Oklahoma City CrimeStoppers and forwarded to Clymer in Pawnee. Williams said he deemed it viable and did not hesitate to involve the FBI.
"As soon as we saw it, we reacted," Williams said. "These are crucial times in America. No school is immune to issues like this and it is not something I will take lightly."
Clymer, Waters and their departments were able to locate the boys who are suspected and place them in custody.
"We always say 'see something, hear something, say something,'" Williams said. "And thank goodness the reporting party said something. With these other school shootings across the country, there have been so many missed signs, but this time, someone said something. And then our local authorities here took things seriously. The immediate response by Wes Clymer, the Pawnee Police, the Pawnee County Sheriff's Office, FBI, OSBI -- we are grateful to them and they deserve recognition for it."
After the two boys were in the custody of juvenile affairs, Williams authorized the school notification system via phone, text and email. An alert to parents was short and to the point, only saying a threat had been identified, persons reportedly responsible had been arrested, and there was no remaining threat. It didn't specify what type of threat.
Although classes still are out for the summer, Williams said he felt it was important parents and guardians hear some information from him first before they saw it in the media.
[The American-Chief company was aware of the arrests on Wednesday, but we could confirm very little about the case with authorities, so we held off on saying what we did know as not to create hysteria. Thursday morning, however, more information about the incident was able to be vetted properly and reported in a responsible manner.]
One of the blessings in the situation is the hallways were not brimming over with students and teachers, the superintendent said.
"This would have been much more confusing and dangerous had it come to light or occurred when school was in session," Williams said. "I am thankful this was able to be stopped as early as it was, almost immediately after it came in as a tip."
As a bit of an eerie sidenote, Pawnee Police were to be in Cleveland on Tuesday afternoon training for a mock school shooting scenario that was planned for Thursday. Instead, they stayed west and investigated a similar and very real possibility.
Clymer was present at Cleveland High School on Thursday, joining Cleveland and Hominy police and fire departments, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, EMS and medical helicopter personnel as they trained from the moment a simulated shot rang out and a 911 call was placed -- to the moment they declared four dead, including the fake "shooter."
As for the real world, Williams said he believes the local authorities understand the severity of a shooting plot and are equipped to handle investigating and stopping it. He said everything about the recent alleged threat was serious to him.
"We felt like it was real and it was a serious matter. That's about as simple as I can put it without saying too much," he said.
Pawnee Public Schools, which serves about 800 elementary-12th grade students, will have officers on campus during the first week of classes and extra patrols thereafter. With the proximity of the PD to the campuses, Williams said the emergency response usually is instant when staff reports an issue. He also said there have been many security measures taken in recent times. Cameras surround each building and anyone who comes to the schools has to be buzzed in through locked doors while appearing on a surveillance camera monitored by staff inside.
"It is sad it has gotten to this point, but we will continue to increase our security," he said. "School settings in America are changing daily and it is difficult sometimes to keep students safe because of the unknown. But just because it is difficult doesn't mean we are going to stop.
"Our students are our most precious commodity."
The teenagers remain in custody at an unknown state facility. They are not being housed in Pawnee County.
We will update you with more details as they are released by the FBI.
This report is a joint effort from the Pawnee Chief and Cleveland American.