North Thurston school shooter will serve up to 3 years in juvenile facility

Police guard the entrance to North Thurston High School on April 17, after a student fired two shots from his father’s .357 Magnum before being tackled by a teacher. He had been a student at the school only 19 days.
Police guard the entrance to North Thurston High School on April 17, after a student fired two shots from his father’s .357 Magnum before being tackled by a teacher. He had been a student at the school only 19 days. Staff photographer

The 17-year-old boy who fired two shots inside North Thurston High School will serve 2-1/2 to 3 years in a state juvenile detention facility.

On Wednesday, the boy pleaded guilty to 14 charges — 12 felonies and two misdemeanors — in Thurston County Juvenile Court.

At the hearing, he addressed North Thurston Public Schools officials, apologizing for his actions on April 27.

“All I can do is accept the consequences of my mistakes and learn from what I did,” he said.

The boy had been a North Thurston High School student for just 19 days when he stole his father’s .357 Magnum, brought it to school and fired it twice. He was tackled by a teacher, then arrested by the school resource officer. He has been held in the county’s juvenile detention facility ever since.

Because the boy is a minor, The Olympian will not use his name.

Judge Chris Wickham said that he felt like the lengthy sentence, which falls outside of the standard sentencing range, was appropriate in this case because it would allow the boy to take advantage of treatment and mental health resources, while keeping him in a secure facility.

The longer sentence is allowed by Washington’s “manifest injustice” sentencing policy, which allows judges in juvenile cases to implement a sentence outside of the standard sentencing range if a sentence within the range would be obviously unfair or unjust.

“I believe that the best chance for you is in a juvenile institution with the kind of sentence we have here,” Wickham said. “... You’re at an age where the only person who can solve your problems is you.”

The sentence was brought to the judge as a joint recommendation between Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Graham and the boy’s attorney, Sharonda Amamilo, of the Office of Assigned Counsel.

“Everybody there was in fear that this would be their last day on earth,” Graham said. “... No one knows what (the boy) was going to do.”

Principal Steve Rood spoke in favor of the sentence at Wednesday’s hearing, and said that North Thurston High School’s students, staff and parents are still recovering from the shooting. He described hearing the shots that morning, and the students fleeing the campus.

“I’ve heard the phrase ‘No one was hurt’ several times,” Rood said. “But that’s not true.”

In the aftermath of the incident, absentee rates at the school were four times higher than usual, he said. Six counselors from throughout the district were stationed at the school to help students cope with what had happened, and officers from the Lacey Police Department’s detective bureau were stationed at the school for more than a week.

He said the impacts of the shooting have carried into this school year. Last week, when the school was placed under lockdown because of a man having a mental health episode in the parking lot, some students stood up and ran.

“Are we all the way there yet? I would say we’re healing but we’re not healed,” Rood said.

Superintendent Raj Manhas, Student Resource Officer Ed McClanahan and Brady Olson, the teacher who tackled the boy, also were present.

The only person to speak against the recommended sentence was the boy’s father. He said he believed the community and the attorneys were trying to put his son “in a hole and throw away the key.”

“I think it’s been dramatized,” he said. “He didn’t hurt anybody. He was there to hurt himself.”

But Amamilo said the boy recognizes he needs help, and wants to take advantage of the treatment that can be offered in a state facility.

“Even (the boy) recognizes the psychological impacts that the students, staff and community feel,” Amamilo said. “...(He) doesn’t believe he’s being thrown into a hole. It’s clear to him that he needs an opportunity to be focused on treatment.”

Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445