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Police provide additional details on MUMS shooting investigation

MIDDLEBURY — After two Middlebury Union Middle School students were detained on suspicion that they were planning to shoot another student, and possibly others, Middlebury police held a press conference on Wednesday morning to give more details on the case and field questions from the statewide media.
Here were the main takeaways from that conference, led by Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley and Detective Kris Bowdish, who was the lead investigator:
•  The alleged shooting plot didn’t result in any interruptions to classes at MUMS this week.
“There was no reason to do that,” Hanley said. “When school opened up (on Monday) we were into the investigation and the danger was over.”
•  One of the involved juveniles is from Middlebury, while the other hails from Salisbury.
•  The student who allegedly offered to access the guns is not in police custody and is not in school. Police said they don’t consider him to be a threat at this point because his access to his relative’s firearms has been cut off.
It remains unclear when and whether the two youths will return to MUMS.
“They are receiving appropriate care and treatment, and we hope it carries through,” Hanley said.
•  The man from whom the weapons were confiscated was cooperative, though miffed at having to surrender his firearms when he had done nothing wrong. Hanley said he understood the gun owner’s concerns, and said he’ll be able to go through the courts to secure return of his weapons at a future date.
•  Having a School Resource Officer (police officer) assigned to Middlebury schools paid big dividends in the investigation, according to Hanley. Middlebury schools have had an SRO since 2001.
“You have a police officer who’s in (the schools) every day with the students,” Hanley said. “That officer becomes much more approachable… When you’re 14, 15, 16 or 17 years old, the last thing you want to do is go running to police about anything. We get that. But being more of a part of the community, they see there’s someone they can trust and who will actually get things done to alleviate any concerns they have.”
•  Vermont State Police offered to help Middlebury police with the case. But the Middlebury force was confident it had all the bases covered, so it handled the matter in-house.
•  Addison County State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans and Middlebury police will meet in January to further discuss the case and potential juvenile charges against the two youths.
•  Police take all threats of violence seriously.
“Probably 30-40 years ago, it’s (considered) a silly prank or idle chatter,” Hanley said. “It’s not funny anymore. We take it seriously. We will investigate and react any time we hear this.”
•  Police gave kudos to the heroic student who alerted adults about the alleged plot.
“We can all say he was a pretty brave student who was able to come forward and talk to the officers,” Bowdish said.
She hopes others will emulate the student’s candor in future investigations.
“We definitely need brave, strong individuals to come forward to talk to us about what’s going on,” Bowdish said. “We can’t hear about it unless people are willing to talk to us.”

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