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Tom Smart, Deseret News

Mom thwarts teen shooting by monitoring son's Facebook, police say

By Pat Reavy | Posted - Apr 7th, 2014 @ 7:10pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — A planned shooting near West High School involving a student was thwarted late last week thanks to a mother keeping an eye on her son's Facebook page, according to police.

"This could have been something pretty tragic," said Salt Lake police detective Cody Lougy.

On Friday, a West High parent called the school's resource officer — who is also a Salt Lake police officer — to report comments allegedly written by two male teenagers on Facebook claiming they were going to shoot her son.

"She had actually read threats and seen the threat on his Facebook page," said Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking. "There were very specific threats that they were going to go the high school and shoot her son."

In addition, Wilking said, "There was a picture of the gun on Instagram, the gun that was seized. And there were letters written on the hand that was holding the gun, and those letters were gang affiliated."

There was a picture of the gun on Instagram, the gun that was seized. And there were letters written on the hand that was holding the gun, and those letters were gang affiliated.

–Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking

Two Salt Lake police officers assigned to West High searched the area around the school. Just after 2 p.m., one of the officers found the teens in a vehicle parked at 220 W. 300 North, close by the school. Inside the vehicle officers reported finding a gun and a loaded magazine, "numerous amounts of money," marijuana and a "large bong."

The teens may have been waiting for their intended target to walk by after school, Wilking said, but he could not say for sure.

Two boys, ages 16 and 17, were booked into juvenile detention for investigation of various charges, said Wilking. The incident is believed to be gang related. The boys were not students at West High School.

As of Monday, police did not know what the dispute between the two parties was about or why the two teens allegedly wanted to shoot the student.

An investigation into where the boys got the weapon was ongoing Monday.

Lougy said investigators were looking at whether the dispute was tied to a drive-by shooting on Thursday. Just before 6 a.m., someone fired several rounds into a house and a vehicle at 900 N. Riverside. No one in that incident was injured.

Wilking praised the intended victim's mother for actively monitoring her son's social media pages, and then contacting police when she saw a potential threat. Because the threats were on Facebook, any of the student's friends could have seen them, but police said no one else stepped forward to report the threats.

Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen said the district always encourages students and parents to report any suspicious or threatening activity they see or hear about.

"Cameras and officers can't be everywhere," he said.

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