Township police say boy who killed himself at Jackson Memorial Middle School told nobody about his plans. His actions have led to changes at Jackson Local Schools.
JACKSON TWP. Police have determined that a student who shot himself last February at Memorial Middle School acted alone and hid his plans from family and friends.
Police have closed an eight-month investigation of the shooting. The student, a 13-year-old seventh-grader, died after shooting himself in a boys bathroom. No charges are being filed, following a review of the case by Stark County prosecutors.
The incident has led to changes in training and security at Jackson Local Schools. The largest: A joint investment by the school district and township to put school safety officers in each of the district's buildings. The schools and township share the cost of wages and benefits for the officers, who work during the school year and only in the school buildings.
"That's huge for us to have them," Superintendent Chris DiLoreto said Tuesday.
The district also instituted programs starting in kindergarten and carrying through to the high school aimed at connecting students with teachers and other staff members. Referred to as "Friends" in elementary schools, "Teams" at the middle school and "Connections" at the high school, the goal is to engage students and help them to know there are adults who care and who are prepared to help.
Additionally, the district will work with the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation and its "See Something, Say Something" anonymous reporting system. Participation includes access to a call center that offers crisis management and tip submissions. The district will receive relevant data gathered by the reporting system.
The township has made a commitment to work with the school district and help to ensure safety in the buildings, township Administrator Michael Vaccaro said.
"I think we have done some things to make the schools safer," Police Chief Mark Brink said.
The incident at the middle school occurred about one week after a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killed 17 students and staff and wounded 17 others. Notes the Jackson student kept on his cellphone discussed his plan and also expressed praise for the students involved in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
Information on the cellphone shows the student had an eight-step plan about an intended school shooting. He believed killing fellow students would get him attention on par with the Columbine gunmen.
Excerpts from the cellphone note say the student had been planning the shooting for weeks after considering it for several months. He knew his actions would shock school authorities and his family.
Another excerpt read, "I'm going to die doing it, I hate those people, when they interview my parents and ask how they didn't see the signs they should know it's not them it's me and it's because of how I see the world I'd hurt and destroy something bigger but my schools an easy target."
Jackson officers, assisted by the Stark County Sheriff's Office, the FBI, ATF, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and other agencies, talked with students and school employees familiar with the student. They also reviewed security video from the school building and bus, as well as private security video.
The FBI also analyzed video game equipment that belong to the student. Nothing with the gaming equipment indicated the student had discussed his plan with anyone through the internet, Brink said.
"We're not able to find anyone who had any knowledge of this (plan) whatsoever," Brink said.
Timeline of events
According to the final report:
The student loaded crude explosives and ammunition in a large backpack, then hid a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle under his clothing. Police believe the student had the rifle barrel down his left pant leg, Brink said.
Security from a residence showed the student walking to a bus stop, then standing behind a parked vehicle and staying away from other students. Once aboard the bus, the student found a seat for the ride to school. He shuffled some as he got off the bus, but his movement didn't seem unusual as he moved through a group of students.
Video shows the student entered the building through an east door and walked along a main hall to the west side of the building, where he entered a bathroom. It took the student less than two minutes to cross the building.
Seconds later, another student entered the bathroom but then backed out. The boy with the rifle then exits the bathroom. He pauses for a few seconds, then re-enters the bathroom, while the second student heads for a classroom and reports what he saw.
Brink said several other students were in the hallway but didn't see the student with the rifle. The student stands in the hall only about three seconds, according to the police report.
Police are uncertain when the lone shot was fired. The report notes that the video skips at one point, raising the possibility the shot might have been fired at that moment. There is a 28-second period before another student enters the bathroom, then leaves and goes to a classroom to report someone is lying on the bathroom floor.
School employees find the boy, who was wounded, and call for police and emergency medical assistance. The student was taken to Mercy Medical Center and Akron Children's Hospital, where he died a day after the incident.
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