Missouri high school student pleads guilty to possessing machine gun

Guilty plea

A former Tarkio R-1 High School student who brought a loaded semi-automatic pistol to school, causing the school to be locked down, pleaded guilty in federal court today to illegally possessing a machine gun that was found at his residence.

Michael T. Knoth, 19, of Tarkio, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Larsen to the charge contained in a March 9, 2016, federal indictment. Knoth, who has been in custody since his arrest on Feb. 11, 2016, remains in federal custody.

By pleading guilty, Knoth admitted that he was in possession of an AR-styled .223/.556-caliber pistol (fully automatic machine gun) on Feb. 11, 2016.

According to court documents, Knoth – who came to school on Feb. 11, 2016, wearing military-style clothing, boots and ballistic body armor – displayed a fully loaded magazine to another student that day. That student alerted a teacher, and the school contacted the Tarkio, Mo., Police Department. School officials then discovered a loaded Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol in Knoth’s backpack, along with four loaded 9mm pistol magazines, three loaded .223- or .556-caliber magazines, a spring-assisted knife, a seatbelt cutter and a window punch.

Knoth was arrested and handcuffed. The school was placed on lockdown.

Investigators searched Knoth’s vehicle, which was parked in the school parking lot. They found two loaded 9mm magazines and 15 loaded .223/.556-caliber magazines.

Investigators also searched Knoth’s residence. During a search of the southwest bedroom, investigators found a loaded machine gun in the closet – an AR-style .223/.556 pistol, containing no visible serial numbers or manufacturer stamp. They found a second machine gun, an UZI-style 9mm firearm (unknown manufacture), in the dresser. Investigators also found numerous rounds of ammunition and numerous loaded .223/.556 and 9mm magazines throughout the residence.

Under federal statutes, Knoth is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.