(ROCKFORD, Wash.) — A 15-year-old boy accused of shooting four classmates at a rural high school in Washington state had been meeting with a school counselor over suicidal thoughts before bringing two guns from home and killing a student he said had bullied him, according to court documents released Thursday.
The documents and his classmates detailed troubling behavior by Caleb Sharpe, saying he brought notes to school about doing “something stupid,” was obsessed with past school shootings and posted videos online showing him playing with guns.
Sharpe, a sophomore at the school of 300 students, also had left a suicide note at home for his parents, the records said. Freeman High School in the tiny town of Rockford has not responded to calls for comment on how they dealt with Sharpe’s behavior outside of counseling for his suicidal thoughts.
He took an assault weapon and a handgun from his father’s gun safe, to which he knew the combination, and brought them in a duffel bag to the school south of Spokane Wednesday, an investigator for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office wrote in an affidavit.
He pulled out the AR-15 rifle and tried to fire it in a hallway but it jammed, the records said. That’s when a classmate approached Sharpe.
“I always knew you were going to shoot up the school,” the student said before Sharpe shot him in the head and abdomen with the handgun, according to the documents.
Sharpe told police that he had been bullied by that student but did not target him specifically.
“Instead he’d come to the school to teach everyone a lesson about what happens when you bully others,” the documents said Sharpe told investigators.
He kept firing the handgun, striking three students, until it also jammed, documents said.
He dropped the handgun and surrendered to an approaching janitor, Joe Bowen, who ordered him to the ground and held him for authorities, the documents said.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich called Bowen “a true hero” who stepped into the line of fire.
Sharpe was arrested and has yet to make an appearance in juvenile court. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney to speak on his behalf.
The Associated Press doesn’t typically name juvenile suspects but is doing so because of the severity of the accusations and because Sharpe’s name was released in public documents and was widely used in local media.
The three wounded victims remained in the hospital but were expected to survive.
Classmates recounted some troubling signs from Sharpe, saying they knew about videos he had posted online showing him playing with guns. Junior Paul Fricke told The Spokesman-Review newspaper that “we knew he had an assault rifle, because he uses it in his YouTube videos.”
In one video, Sharpe and a friend display several guns, including what appear to be airsoft weapons and one actual rifle, and act out a scenario where they search for an imaginary neighborhood drug dealer.
He also had brought notes earlier in the school year, saying he was going to do “something stupid” and might get killed or jailed, according to classmate Michael Harper.
Some students alerted counselors, the 15-year-old sophomore told The Associated Press, but it wasn’t clear what school officials did in response.
Asked if warning signals had been missed, Sheriff Knezovich said, “They are always missed” and that the school should not be blamed.
The sheriff’s office had received no advance information about Sharpe, he said.
Harper said Sharpe had many friends, calling him “nice and funny and weird” and a huge fan of the TV show “Breaking Bad.” He also said the teen was obsessed with other school shootings and watched a lot of documentaries on the crimes.
“It looks more like he was enamored of the school shooting culture,” Knezovich said.
School was canceled the rest of the week.