In the eight months since the Sandy Hook school shootings in Newtown, Conn., school shootings have continued to occur in our country. The death toll is less in each instance, and the victims’ average age is older, but the point remains: schools in the United States are vulnerable to armed attacks on their students.
A school in Decatur, Ga. was one bookkeeper away from becoming the Newtown of 2013. On Tuesday, 2o-year-old Michael Brandon Hill walked into the Atlanta-area school armed with an automatic rifle and almost 500 rounds of ammunition. He eventually found his way to Antoinette Tuff, the aforementioned bookkeeper, who managed to convince Hill to abandon his firepower, lie on the ground, and wait for the police to apprehend him. The 911 tapes documenting Tuff’s miraculous negotiation have brought attention to the incident, which fortunately involved no loss of life or even reports of injury.
There have been other mass shootings, or narrowly avoided ones, that haven’t received the same amount of news coverage. Here are six, all of which occurred — or almost occurred — at schools:
1. Taft Union High School. A 16-year-old entered the California high school in January, targeting two classmates who, the shooter claimed, had bullied him. One student was shot, but a teacher and the school’s campus supervisor convinced the shooter to give up his weapon before he could injure or kill anyone else. The shooter planned the attack the night before, using his brother’s gun and filling his pockets with ammunition. He was charged as an adult on attempted murder and related offenses, to which he pleaded not guilty.
2. Stevens Institute of Business & Art. In January, 34-year-old Sean Johnson had lost financial assistance to attend the St. Louis career college and returned the next day to shoot the financial aid director. He used a semi-automatic pistol whose serial numbers had been filed off. Johnson shot the school official in the chest and was later found in a stairwell with his own chest wound. Both men survived the gunshot wounds. Although he had a criminal history, neighbors described Johnson as “quiet, seemingly harmless, and known to have learning disabilities.”
3. Hazard Community and Technical College. Also in January, two people were shot dead and a teenager was critically wounded in a parking lot shooting at this Kentucky school. Police did not believe the shooting was “related to the school,” but was a result of a domestic dispute that played out on the campus. Dalton Stidham, 21, had a child in common with one of the victims, and was arrested for the crimes, which he committed with a semi-automatic pistol. The school went into lockdown and canceled classes for the following day.
All of the above incidents happened just months after Newtown.
4. Santa Monica College. In June, John Zawahri, 23, killed his father and brother, set their house on fire and proceeded to the California college campus. Along the way, he carjacked a woman and shot at pedestrians and students, killing and wounding several. He was armed with a military-style assault rifle, at least one handgun, and 1,300 rounds of ammunition. He had been hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation in 2006 after police found bomb-making equipment at his home. He died in a shoot-out with police on the steps of the college library.
5. University of Central Florida. James Seevakumaran, 30, was found dead in his dorm room in March after he pulled a fire alarm intended to force other students out of their rooms so that he could shoot them. He was found with two guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a backpack full of explosives. Before he pulled the alarm, he had pulled a gun on his roommate, who alerted the police. The police were then able to interrupt the plot before the would-be shooter had a chance to take aim at the nearly 500 students who had evacuated the building. The school had been in the process of removing Seevakumaran from the dorm because he had not registered for classes.
6. Chelsea Middle School. In February, a former student and summer employee of the Alabama school entered with a gun and held several students at gunpoint in a locker room. A physical education teacher was credited with stepping between the gunman and the students, and with alerting the authorities over a radio of the emergency. The suspect was taken into custody, and no one was injured.
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Image Source: Bbjeter via Wikimedia Commons.