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  • Writer's pictureRobin Lyons

Graduation Practice

Tis the season for proud parents and grandparents to attend graduation ceremonies—graduates ranging from kindergarten through college. Sadly, there have been school shootings at these joyous events. The true crime I’m sharing today is about a school shooting that took place before the ceremony—days before at the graduation practice.

It is my belief that retaliation for repeated bullying often drives the motive behind a school shooting. I also believe schools should do more to stop bullying and better protect students against school violence.

In this true crime, on the day of graduation practice, the 19-year-old senior, scheduled to graduate with his classmates, brought a rifle to school. He entered the gymnasium and fired shots. A fast acting, fearless school resource officer (SRO)—a 15-year veteran of the local police department—ran toward the gunshots. The officer had served as the SRO at the school for five years.

When the shooter saw the police officer, he ran toward his car. The officer chased after the student—a young man he considered a family friend. When the student shooter turned and saw the officer running after him, he shot at the SRO, thankfully missing. The SRO returned fire and hit the student with two non-fatal shots.

The young man’s mother said students bullied her son, and he had been the victim of fights that the school did nothing about.

Early on, after recovering from the gunshot wounds, the court found the school shooter unfit to stand trial. Six months later, the court found him to be fit to stand trial. Four months after finding the young man fit to stand trial, the court again ruled he was unfit. Eleven months after the second ruling of being unfit, the court determined he was once again fit.

Rather than go to trial, the school shooter accepted a plea agreement. He pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm towards a peace officer and discharging a firearm in a school building. A judge sentenced him to two 30-year prison terms to run concurrently.

Later, at the sentencing hearing, the SRO’s wife said,

“He was a guest in our home on many occasions when the boys were younger, and we treated him like family.”

The SRO who thwarted the shooting said,

“Children will continue to be murdered until we place well-trained school resource officers in every school.”

The Justice Department prioritizes grant applications for funding to hire more resource officers. The Bureau of Industry and Security and the National Institute of Justice continue to research whether school resource officers make a difference.

In a strange twist, a year after the school shooter began serving his prison term, his father found himself in big trouble. The local authorities arrested the father for offering money to hire someone to kill his ex-wife and a man. He later pleaded guilty to the murder-for-hire scheme. In a separate case, the father also pleaded guilty to drug charges. A judge sentenced him to six years in prison, with two years of supervised release. At the time I published this post, both father and son were serving time—at different facilities.

Source: Illinois Department of Corrections, USA Today, CBS News Chicago, The State Journal-Register, TV 6 KWQC, Shaw Local News Network, Our

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