Troopers say teens planted gun

Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A 17-year-old West Valley High School student accused of bringing a loaded gun to school Friday has been cleared of charges after Alaska State Troopers determined the weapon was planted in his backpack.

Trooper Carl Main said it became apparent Monday that the boy's claims the gun was planted in his bag were true. His family, teachers and other students said it was out of character for the boy to bring a weapon.

Main said he also collected evidence pointing to a setup, but would not describe it.

''There's certain life lessons to be learned from this. The truth was able to come out,'' Main said. ''I never thought something like this would happen. It's something off a Matlock show.'' Matlock is a television lawyer played by Andy Griffith who finds clever ways to unmask killers.

The school went into ''code yellow'' Friday after a student reported the boy had brought a gun to school. When assistant principals contacted the 17-year-old, they found a loaded .357-caliber Magnum revolver and a baggie with a white powder in his backpack.

Two other 17-year-old students were arrested Tuesday morning on one count each of second-degree misconduct involving a weapon. They're accused of planting the loaded gun. One of them also faces a fourth-degree misconduct charge involving a controlled substance for the suspected drugs, Main said. He said they could face additional charges.

Troopers have asked federal authorities to determine who owns the pistol. A field test on the powder was inconclusive and the substance has been sent to the state crime lab for testing.

What was most helpful was the high school faculty's close relationships with its students and insight to what goes on at the school, Main said.

''Any changes in social cliques is what really opened the door to investigate this,'' he said. ''We wouldn't have been able to do it without them.''

Main would not identify a motive, but said the incident was connected to a case he has been investigating at the high school since mid-March.

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