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Student’s graduation plans included shooting spree of teachers and classmates, NJ cops say

An Ocean County, New Jersey, student at New Egypt High School was arrested after police said he threatened to shoot students and staff at a high school graduation ceremony and tried to buy a gun. He conveyed the threat over social media, prosecutors said.
An Ocean County, New Jersey, student at New Egypt High School was arrested after police said he threatened to shoot students and staff at a high school graduation ceremony and tried to buy a gun. He conveyed the threat over social media, prosecutors said. Ocean County Prosecutor's Office

The student’s plan was a chilling one, according to New Jersey prosecutors: He threatened to bring a weapon to a high school graduation ceremony to shoot students and staff.

The student behind the plot — Matthew Vanderbeek, 19, of Cream Ridge, New Jersey — even tried to obtain a firearm, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.

But before he did, Vanderbeek was arrested this week, prosecutors announced Thursday. He faces charges of making terrorist threats with a threat to kill, as well as attempting to possess a firearm for unlawful purposes.

Authorities caught on to Vanderbeek’s plot on Tuesday, when police learned that a New Egypt High School student had posted on social media that he was planning a graduation attack against classmates and staff.

As detectives began to investigate the threat, they got a search warrant for Vanderbeek’s home, prosecutors said. There were no weapons found at his home, but the search — and other investigative follow-up — revealed that the suspect had in fact tried to obtain a weapon, according to authorities.

Investigators arrested Vanderbeek without incident. He was then taken to the Ocean County jail, prosecutors said.

Vanderbeek remains at the jail ahead of a detention hearing, according to prosecutors.

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Following the arrest, prosecutors said “there is no present threat to the Plumsted Township School system or the graduation ceremony.”

In a letter issued after the threat surfaced, the local school superintendent sought to reassure parents, the Asbury Park Press reports.

“There will be an increased police presence at the graduation ceremony. We, as always, have the safety and security of our students first and foremost in our decision making,” Superintendent Gerald North told parents, according to the newspaper. “Please understand this situation was dealt with promptly and professionally to insure the safety at, as well as the memories from the graduation of the Class of 2018.”

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