Three teens arrested when alleged plot to kill enemies unravels

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

OAKLYN, N.J. -- An alleged plot by three teenagers to kill their enemies and then target other victims at random unraveled when they tried to carjack a motorist and were arrested, authorities said.

"We could have had a disaster here in Oaklyn," Camden County Prosecutor Vincent Sarubbi said Sunday night after police said they uncovered the trio's cache of guns, knives and swords in this small town near Philadelphia.

Matthew Lovett, 18, was arrested along with two boys, ages 15 and 14, whose names were not released. They were charged with attempted murder, weapons offenses and attempted carjacking. Sarubbi said he would seek to have the 14- and 15-year-olds tried as adults.

Lovett, who is accused of pointing a gun at the police officer who arrested him, also was charged with aggravated assault, Sarubbi said.

Lovett was being held in Camden County Jail on $1 million bail Monday. The younger suspects were being held at the Camden County juvenile detention center.

Authorities seized two rifles, a shotgun, two handguns, two swords, several knives and 2,000 rounds of ammunition. Additional weapons were found at Lovett's home. Sarubbi said the weapons belonged to Lovett's father and were legal.

A phone message left Sunday night with his father, Ron Lovett, was not returned. In an interview with CNN on Monday, he described his son as a good youngster who became "kind of withdrawn" after his mother died nine years ago.

Lovett, who described himself as a gun collector and target shooter, said his son was never interested in guns. "I don't think he'd know how to use one," he said.

Sarubbi said the attacks had been planned over the course of several months. The suspects intended to target people at random once they had attacked specific victims, police said.

Sarubbi said three people believed to be intended victims were notified Sunday of the alleged plot. The prosecutor declined to identify them, but police indicated they were students.

Mathew Rich, 34, who reported the carjacking attempt, said he was leaving for work when he saw the three teens, dressed in trench coats and standing in front of Oaklyn Public School.

One crossed the street in front of him, opened his coat to reveal a handgun, then signaled for his friends. Rich said he drove around them, then notified police.

When Rich returned to the area after driving to the police station, he saw the weapons being confiscated.

"These guys were ready for a war," Rich said.

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