FORSYTH, Mont. (AP) – Two second-grade boys and an 11-year-old schoolmate were arrested after they buried a loaded handgun in a playground sandbox and plotted to shoot and stab a third-grade girl during recess, authorities said Thursday.

Sheriff Tim Fulton said the boys intended to harm the young girl because she had teased two of them.

The plot included a .22-caliber revolver and a box of bullets that were hidden on the playground of the small school in rural eastern Montana, authorities said. One of the boys was carrying a knife.

The boys apparently brought the weapons from home to school on Wednesday morning, prosecutor Michael Hayworth said. The intent was to assault the girl over the recess hour that day, he said.

“You think about what could have happened. It could have been ugly,” said Brenda Stabelfeldt, who has a daughter in the fifth grade and went to the school over the lunch hour Thursday to give the girl a hug.

Fulton said classmate of the two younger boys, both 8, was the one who alerted the school of the plot.

“I need to commend that young man for such a brave act,” the sheriff said. “He saved the lives of who knows how many people.”

The boys were identified in court records as Klint Cook and Levi Strait, both second-graders, and Blake Belgarde, a fifth-grader. They were charged Thursday in juvenile court with conspiracy to commit assault with a weapon.

In Montana, the names of juvenile suspects are public if the crimes they are accused of committing are felonies in adult court.

Forsyth is about 100 miles east of Billings. The school has about 200 students in kindergarten through the sixth grade.

“Needless to say, it is a frightening experience for a community and our schools,” Superintendent Dave Shreeve said. “We believe it’s an isolated incident but it does bring into reality that this can happen in any place at any time.”

AP-ES-03-18-04 1833EST



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