An Italy High School junior believes her encounter with Monday's shooter some 13 months ago showed an already violent trend of behavior. She now wishes those early warning signs had been taken more seriously.
In a Facebook post on Dec. 15, 2016, Hannah Haight recalled the fearful incident that involved Monday's shooter while in Spanish class one day prior. She witnessed the student create chaos by throwing a computer monitor against a wall and then watched as he hurled a pair of scissors in her direction.
Shortly after the shooting, parents and classmates began to again comment on that one-year-old status, explaining how their children were afraid of the shooter then, and even more so now.
Hannah recalled the now 16-year-old boy having quite the violent past, often leaving her and her classmates fearful.
Hannah claims to have always been friendly with the boy and even recalls times he would confide in her about personal problems. Never once does she remember a mention of him shooting anything. He would mainly talk about his home life and parents. She recalled him telling her that he was so upset one day that he walked from Milford to Avalon.
She has known the shooter since the seventh grade, and noted — though he wasn’t physically violent in middle school — she had heard he compiled a “hit list” and drew a disturbing photo of the school building burning down in flames.
Once in high school, Hannah said she either heard or experienced the shooter involved in multiple acts of violence.
Before Italy High School students left for winter break in December 2016, there was an incident where the shooter caused chaos in a computer lab. His rage sparked after another student wouldn’t pass him the glue because she was using it, Hannah recalled.
“He then started throwing computers, chairs everywhere,” she recalled, “Then, he threw a pair of scissors at me, and I couldn’t react. I couldn’t run or move. My friend had to push me out of the way so I wouldn’t get stabbed in the stomach with the flying scissors.”
She remembered him yelling, “You made the wrong person mad.”
Before that situation in the classroom, she mentioned that he was involved in the alleged stabbing of his friend. He was not ever charged and Italy Police had no comment at the time of the allegations.
When reflecting on the events the shooter was involved in, Hannah said she honestly isn't surprised he brought a gun to school.
“I’ve always been scared of him and what he was capable of doing,” she admitted.
What upsets Hannah and her mother, Tina, the most is that they both spoke with Italy High School Principal Eric Janszen and Italy Police about how uncomfortable the incident in Spanish class made them feel. They said the authorities downplayed the situation and said they were “overdramatic.”
After the shooting, Hannah and her friends talked about how they knew the shooter was going to do something violent one day, but they just did not know when or what.
“We were frustrated as a school because we told them [authorities] — they should have listened to us. Because now, we are scarred for life,” Hannah said.
The school is unable to share disciplinary information with the public due to chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code, stating Italy ISD Superintendent Lee Joffre in a Tuesday press conference.
“The law prohibits a school district from speaking specifically regarding student discipline or any student incidents at the school," Joffre said. “[...] It’s important for the community to know that anytime a student commits an act of violence on campus against an individual that results in bodily injury, it would require a disciplinary alternative education placement for the student, and that falls under chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code.”
He said expelling a student is mandated by chapter 37 as well and, in order to be expelled, a student would have to commit an act of violence that’s tied to a felony.
According to the student code of conduct, Italy ISD “prohibit(s) bullying, harassment, and making hit lists and ensures that district employees enforce those prohibitions.”
The code defines harassment as, “means threatening to cause harm or bodily injury to another student, engaging in sexually intimidating conduct, causing physical damage to the property of another student, subjecting another student to physical confinement or restraint, or maliciously taking any action that substantially harms another student's physical or emotional health or safety.”
Punishment for the above actions ranges based on severity.
When gunshots were fired on Monday, Jan. 22, Hannah was being tutored in math class. Hannah stated she did not think the initial bang to be gunfire.
“I saw all of the students running. Then my teacher yelled, ‘What’s going on?’ And a student said '[the shooter] just shot somebody.' My teacher then locked the door real fast and turned off the lights and hid us in the closet.”
“I honestly thought I was going to die because I was just so scared,” Hannah added. “You can’t even put into words that feeling, thinking you’re going to die, but you don’t know when he’s going to come and find you.”
Hannah explained because she declined a date with the shooter just one weekend before the incident, she thought he would target her next.
“I was really scared to say no because I didn’t want him to hurt me,” she said.
When Hannah’s mother, Tina, heard from her daughter about the shooting, her initial thought was to run out the door. “I just thought that she would be shot next by [the shooter]. That was my biggest fear.”
Monday's shooter, who is still considered a minor and name not yet released by authorities, appeared in a preliminary juvenile hearing Tuesday morning in the 443rd District Court of Ellis County. Judge Cindy Ermatinger ruled for the 16-year-old boy to remain in police custody, stating he poses a threat to himself and the community and that he lacks proper supervision.
The boy will undergo a psychological evaluation before reappearing in court Feb. 7.
Hannad said the only way she knows to cope with the trauma left by Monday's incident is being with friends and family.
If she had anything to say to the administration at Italy ISD, “What I have to say is, ‘I wish y’all would have listened and I wish that our thoughts and feelings were taken into consideration because this could have been prevented.’”
Tina said she feels that if there was a stronger discipline for the boy in 2016, then the shooting could have potentially been prevented. When Tina went to the school about the December issue, “They assured me that the computer fell over and the scissors slipped out of his hands.”
Tina also shared how she heard that the shooter had allegedly stabbed his grandmother’s dog to death. She proceeded to say, “He had stabbed another child in the park and then he goes into this classroom with Hannah, and it’s a computer lab, and he’s upset and throws scissors at Hannah and throws computers. I think the school only suspended him for like nine days. That’s all they did.”
“I don’t know how you’re supposed to move on from...like you’re supposed to feel safe at school," Hannah questioned. Now, that whole process is ruined for us."
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