St George – A teenage student at a southern Utah high school has been charged with bringing a homemade bomb to the school that was discovered in a backpack emitting smoke and prompted an evacuation, police said on Tuesday.
The boy was arrested on Monday night after Pine View High School in the city of St George was evacuated for two hours that afternoon while the FBI and a bomb squad investigated.
Police declined to identify the arrested teen or give his age.
Authorities also said the teen is a suspect in the raising of the Islamic State group’s flag on a pole at another Utah high school last month just after the Florida mass school shooting that was followed by numerous other threats to schools around the US.
No one was hurt on Monday after the backpack was found in a common area of the school by a student who reported it to a teacher.
The boy was arrested and booked into a detention centre on charges of manufacture, possession, sale, use or attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, St George police said in a statement.
No one was hurt, no damage was reported and the school reopened on Tuesday morning for classes.
Police did not describe the homemade bomb in detail but said it “had the potential to cause significant injury or death”.
“Based on our investigation we can confirm this was a failed attempt to detonate a homemade explosive at the school. It was also determined that the male had been researching information and expressing interest in ISIS and promoting the organisation,” police said.
‘A shock to all of us’
Police in the city of Hurricane about a half-hour drive from St George tweeted on Monday night that the teen who was arrested is also suspected of raising an Islamic State group flag in February at Hurricane High School.
That happened on February 15, a day after a mass shooting at a school in Florida. Authorities initially thought the graffiti and flag at the school were pranks.
The backpack at Pine View High School was found by a student who reported to a teacher that smoke was coming out of it shortly after noon on Monday, St George Police Captain Giles said.
The teen who was arrested was attending class at the school, St George police added.
“A warrant was served on the residence of that juvenile and items were located that were consistent with the material used to build the device placed at Pine View,” police said.
School District spokesperson Steve Dunham said the school with about 1 100 students hadn’t experienced any similar incidents in recent years.
“I think it is a shock to all of us that something like this has happened in one of our schools,” he said.
In the case at Hurricane High School, the US flag was found on the ground and slashed with a flag with Arabic letters waving from the flagpole.
The FBI analysed an image of the flag that had been raised and agents determined the group was not involved, said Hurricane police officer Ken Thompson.