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Facebook hit list not like Columbine, Vancouver teen's lawyer says

VANCOUVER, B.C. - The lawyer representing a Vancouver high school student who police say had a hit list of students and teachers is rejecting suggestions police may have prevented a Columbine-style massacre.

VANCOUVER, B.C. - The lawyer representing a Vancouver high school student who police say had a hit list of students and teachers is rejecting suggestions police may have prevented a Columbine-style massacre.

The 18-year-old Grade 12 student has no criminal record nor history of violence or behaviour problems, David Karp said Tuesday.

Police arrested the teenager on Friday and he appeared in provincial court Tuesday on seven weapons-related offences, including possession of a shotgun, a machete and a sword.

He was remanded in custody until Friday, when the date will be set for a bail hearing.

Insp. Scott Thompson, who heads Vancouver police's youth services unit, said investigators now are interviewing people on the list police say was posted on Facebook. Further charges could result.

Although his name appeared on the provincial court docket connected to the weapons charges, Thompson said police won't identify him because he was still a youth when alleged offences related to the hit list occurred.

Karp said a brief psychological assessment was done after his arrest late Friday night to ensure he was fit to stand trial. No further evaluation is planned, he said.

"He's coherent, he's cognizant," Karp said in an interview. "He's quiet and he's obviously quite concerned with the situation he's in."

Thompson called the case the most serious school threat Vancouver police have encountered.

It drew immediate comparisons in the media to the April 1999 Columbine massacre, where two students at the Colorado high school systematically shot and killed 11 students and a teacher.

It's also been compared with the Taber, Alta., high school shooting eight days after Columbine, where a 14-year-old student killed one student and wounded another, and the 2006 Dawson College rampage by Kimveer Gill, who killed one student and wounded 20 at the Montreal school.

Gill had posted photos of himself brandishing a semi-automatic carbine on social-networking web sites.

But Karp played down the 117-name Facebook hit list, which included 71 students and teachers at Templeton high school on Vancouver's east side.

"People do all kinds of crazy, stupid things all the time," he said. "How many people have said I'm going to go kill that person? It may sound concerning, obviously, but who knows?

"What are we really dealing with here? This is one weapon in a house and there's allegedly some information on a computer that is scary, of course, for everyone involved.

"But this isn't a case where someone showed up with an arsenal of weapons at a school and started shooting people. So quite frankly I don't think the Columbine equation fits at all."

Thompson also dismissed the Columbine connection as speculative. But he said the presence of weapons elevated this above the juvenile stupidities that often surface on social-networking sites.

"Clearly the firearm changed the complexion of this situation dramatically," he said.

"That's also what makes it different than the previous situations that we have dealt with in Vancouver schools. That's why we have described it as being the most serious manifestation of this type of school-based incident."

The teen was arrested after a half dozen students reported the online hit list, which apparently had been posted for weeks, to police.

A student at the school said the accused told him he was No. 25 on the list two months ago but he thought it was a joke.

Karp said the accused teen and his family, which includes a younger sister, emigrated from China in the mid-1990s. His parents do not speak English and his father commutes back and forth from Hong Kong.

The boy has never been suspended or expelled from school and has never had contact with police, the lawyer said.

"There doesn't seem to be any history of violence or any sort of behavioural problems in that regard," said Karp.

Police have called in more investigators to help interview the people on the hit list. Threat-assessment experts were brought in to help determine if the teen was preparing to act on his list, said Thompson.

Police are not looking for any other suspects, he added.

"We're satisfied he was acting alone in this case," said Thompson.

 
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