Gunslinger At The Middle School


Posts about real school tragedy, crime and/or events can be upsetting.

School violence, when it takes a deadly turn, is hard to comprehend. For as long as there have been schools, there have been fights between students. But school violence now happens far too frequent.

BLOG POST #113: This week, I’m sharing research on a specific criminal case involving middle school students.

Because it was an intensely cold winter morning, the middle school started two hours late.

Better To Have Stayed Home

The 14-year-old student skipped his morning classes to prepare for his afternoon assault.

Before leaving for school, he armed himself with his father’s fully loaded weapons; rifle, revolver and semiautomatic pistol. He strapped to his chest and waist three belts of additional ammunition and packed a speed loader for the revolver.

He removed the inside pocket on a long black trench coat to conceal the rifle as he walked to school. The news reported he looked like a gunslinger.

Armed and ready, he entered his fifth-period algebra class and shot his intended target, a classmate who did not survive. It’s unknown why he targeted this boy.

The next two victims, two more classmates, were shot as they dropped to the floor to crawl under their desks, one survived with extensive injuries.

When the teacher cried out, “No, no,” he shot her as well, she also did not survive.

That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger – Friedrich Nietzsche

Upon hearing the gunshots, a P.E. Teacher ran into the classroom. He dove toward the injured teacher. The shooter told the P.E. Teacher to stand up, or he would shoot another student. He did and then talked the shooter into allowing a few students to assist the injured teacher out of the classroom along with a diabetic student.

The student who survived went on to become involved in Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE).

Nowhere To Run

Police tried to hostage negotiate with the shooter which resulted in escalating his agitation.

Deciding he needed coverage in case there were snipers he told the P.E. Teacher to stand near him and put the end of the rifle in his mouth. When the heroic teacher appeared to comply, the shooter wasn’t expecting the teacher to grab the gun and pin him against the wall. He then told the students to run.

The police stormed the classroom and handcuffed the shooter.

Juvenile Or Adult?

The shooter’s case was sent to adult court, where he pleaded insanity.

At the trial, the defense team had an expert testify the shooter suffered from depression and bipolar disorder. The prosecution also had an expert testify he suffered from dysthymic disorder, hyperactivity, and clinical depression. He was taking Ritalin at the time of the shooting.

The 14-year-old troubled boy was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree attempted murder, and 16 counts of aggravated kidnapping.

Without Parole: With Parole

He was sentenced to serve two life sentences plus an additional 205 years without the possibility of parole.

However, in 2012, a U.S. Supreme Court ruled people younger than 16 could not receive life sentences without parole. Twenty-one years after the shooting, a judge resentenced him to 189 years.

Worth mentioning: Juvenile court makes a decision to keep a case or move a case to adult court based on the best interest of the juvenile or the public, and taking into account eight standards set out in Kent v. the United States also known as the ‘Kent Factors.’

(1) The seriousness of the charged offense and whether protection of the community requires prosecution in adult court.

(2) Whether the offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated or willful manner.

(3) Whether the offense was against persons or property.

(4) The prosecutive merit of the case.

(5) Whether the defendant had an adult accomplice.

(6) The defendant’s sophistication and maturity.

(7) The defendant’s prior record.

(8) The prospects for adequate protection of the public and rehabilitation of the juvenile in the juvenile system.

My heart goes out to all families who have suffered because of school violence. And my sincere condolences go to those who have lost a loved one.

What do you think about this case? Join the conversation on the website. We talk about the sensitive subject of crimes occurring at or connected to schools. Your relevant comments are always welcome on the Research Blog.

Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Thanks for reading!


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