Police in Virginia have arrested two young men who they said planned to open fire at a high school prom.
Michael Coleman, 18, and a 17-year-old male face charges related to what police said was a plan to carry out an attack last Saturday during Bayside High School’s prom at a hotel in Virginia Beach, said Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera on Monday.
Coleman was charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack and the 17-year-old was charged with conspiracy to carry out terrorist threats, police said.
The investigation began on May 30, when Virginia Beach Police received information that people not affiliated with Bayside High School had tried to buy tickets to go to the school’s prom.
Police also learned Coleman was identified as making threats towards unknown individuals, Virginia Beach police said in a statement. And, they came to believe that Coleman and possibly others were staying at the Westin Hotel, where Bayside’s prom was held.
As such, police developed a “robust” security plan for the event, Cervera said.
On the night of prom, an officer spotted Coleman exiting the hotel and tried to stop him, police said.
Coleman fled the scene and, as he ran, he threw down a handgun, Cervera said.
Officers then obtained a search warrant for Coleman’s hotel room, where they found the 17-year-old suspect with a .45-caliber semi-automatic rifle and numerous rounds of ammunition, Cervera said.
Coleman was arrested without incident in nearby Norfolk for an unrelated firearm charge, Cervera said.
He also faces charges for carrying a concealed weapon; the 17-year-old suspect also is accused of possession of a firearm as a juvenile, he said.
Bayside High School Principal Jim Miller on Monday praised officers’ efforts in a message to the Bayside community, WAVY reported.
“I am grateful to the Virginia Beach Police Department and the school division’s Office of Safety and Loss Control who partnered with us to take the necessary steps to ensure our students could safely enjoy their senior prom,” Miller said. “Now, it is time for us to turn our attention to this week’s final exams and, of course, graduation.”
Coleman is being held in Norfolk Jail. His next court date is set for June 18, when he will either prove he has an attorney or be appointed one, said Norfolk Public Defenders Office.
A message left with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office was not immediately returned.