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What to Know

  • Chilling details have emerged after a 19-year-old NJ student was arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot up a graduation ceremony

  • Prosecutors say Matthew Vanderbeek allegedly made the threats via social media; they say he also tried to get a hold of a gun

  • Details have emerged in a court record filed by prosecutors in Ocean County Friday

Chilling new details have emerged in a New Jersey high school student's alleged plan to shoot classmates and staff during the graduation ceremony Thursday.

A complaint filed by Ocean County prosecutors in court before 19-year-old Matthew Vanderbeek's detention hearing Friday included specific details and a timeline of how the student allegedly planned the attack at New Egypt High School.

Vanderbeek was first disciplined back in May for threatening to "shoot up" Brick Vocational School, which he was attending at the time, according to court records. He posted derogatory posts about the school and teachers on social media, and one student allegedly heard him say in April that he planned to shoot up the school on graduation day and the "safe color" to wear was orange.

Multiple students informed the principal about Vanderbeek's social media posts and his verbal statement, and Vanderbeek was suspended nine days, then placed on home instruction for the rest of the school year before being expelled altogether.

Then last week, a friend hung out with Vanderbeek and noticed his hair was dyed red, according to prosecutors. When he commented on it, Vanderbeek replied that he was influenced by a school shooter who had red hair.

Vanderbeek then asked that friend to drive him to Pineland Sporting Goods in Jackson Township to buy a gun, because he wanted to "shoot up the school," referring to New Egypt High School, on graduation day. The friend told him "no way" and could not believe it, he told authorities; he told Vanderbeek to get out of his car and walk home.

A few days later, the friend was with his brother at a Wawa store and saw Vanderbeek. The brother commented on Vanderbeek's hair being dyed, and Vanderbeek again said he was planning to shoot up the school.

That friend confided to another teen that he didn't want to go to graduation because he was scared Vanderbeek would show up and shoot.

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The principal got wind of Vanderbeek's alleged threats on Tuesday, and in the course of speaking to students about them, discovered several troubling Snapchat videos, prosecutors said.

One Snapchat showed a clip from the TV show "South Park," where characters are holding rifles and loading a handgun; the caption says, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years." When the video ends, a caption states: "I see myself dead in the end."

Another Snapchat shows a green-and-black biohazard symbol with a quote, "It will become fine dust among the land of Egypt with boils breaking out on man and beast exitis-99" — an apparent Bible verse, Exodus 9:9, that talks about ending the world and killing people.

Vanderbeek was taken into custody and is being held in the Ocean County Jail. It wasn't immediately clear if Vanderbeek had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

A letter from the superintendent, Gerald North, addressed the arrest.

"We, as always, have the safety and security of our students first and foremost in our decision making," North wrote on the school distrcit's website. "Please understand this situation was dealt with promptly and professionally to insure the safety at, as well as the memories from the graduation of the Class of 2018."

In an additional statement to NBC 4, North said: “I am very proud that the system worked as it intended. To the students, to the administration, to the Plumsted Police Department, to the Ocean County Prosecutors Office. Everyones prompt and professional handling of the situation averted a possible tragedy.”

NBC

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