Thursday, September 14, 2017

Classmates remember alleged shooter as 'Cowardly Lion' from school musical, not as a monster

Posted By on Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 3:50 PM

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So much of it simply didn't make any sense. And no explanation could help Masha Stuart and Elisa Vigil, two Freeman High School freshmen, reconcile yesterday's reality with everything they had known before.

The pair went to a candlelight vigil last night at River Park Square, surrounded by hundreds of mourners all trying to make sense of how the boy, known to the two girls as "a nice, nerdy kid," could shoot to death one student and injure three others at Freeman High.

Both girls got to know the accused shooter, Caleb Sharpe, while producing two school musicals: The Wizard of Oz and Rapunzel.

Sharpe played the Cowardly Lion and Rapunzel's prince, Stuart says. Yesterday, she scrolled through the nasty comments that had piled up on Sharpe's social media accounts, but they don't reflect the boy she knew.

"Can I just say something?" she asks, tears welling in her eyes. "Online, I've been seeing everyone saying really awful things about him. I don't really think he was that bad of a person. He was just going through a lot of stuff, and he took his anger out on the wrong people. He gave out notes to people to try and let them know, and no one did anything. It wasn't a case of bullying or anything. His best friend moved away about a year before, and he just went downhill."

The comments, in Vigil's opinion, "just dehumanized" Sharpe. The videos he posted to YouTube, which have since been deleted, show a goofy young man acting out scenes with friends. In many of the videos, Sharpe wields fake guns. He fires them at his friends, and they shoot back at him as they act out scenes.

In the other video, Sharpe teaches viewers how to make fake blood like they do in the movies — something he learned at theater camp, he says in the video.

Neither of the girls excuse Sharpe's decision. They know the wounded victims, identified as Emma Nees, Jordyn Goldsmith and Gracie Jensen, as well as Sam Strahan, who was killed.

"He was in my sixth-period math," Stuart says of Strahan. "He was a really funny guy. Everyone liked him."

He was always "cracking jokes," Vigil adds.
And the three other victims? "They were all really sweet people," Stuart says. She plans to visit them in the hospital soon.

Court documents indicate that Strahan tried to intervene after he saw Sharpe pull a rifle from a black duffel bag and then a handgun from his coat. Sharpe fired twice, striking Strahan in the abdomen and the head, killing him. The Spokesman-Review has reported that Sharpe and Strahan were friends.

Vigil was in the second-floor hallway when Sharpe began firing. She says she saw one person fall to the ground, then another girl fell near her.

"She was screaming 'Help me! Help me!' and I just heard footsteps," she says. "I blacked out for a second, and when I came [to on the ground], I saw the pistol several feet away from me."

One girl lying next to her was shot in the back, she says. And Strahan was on the other side of the hallway, motionless.

"He was very brave," she says.

Vigil stayed on the ground as Sharpe, a sophomore, walked "calmly" down the hallway. She held the hand of the girl who had been shot.

"I, like, prayed with her, and she was like comforting me too, because I thought she was going to die, and we didn't know if it was fatal or not," Vigil says. "Then teachers came and helped cover the wound and sop up the blood."

Court documents also say that Sharpe had "been in the care of a school counselor for suicidal ideations," and he did not come to school that day to target Strahan specifically, but "to teach everyone a lesson about what happens when you bully others."

The notes he handed to friends said he planned "to do something stupid that might end up getting him killed," Stuart says, though she did not receive one. Court documents say Sharpe left his parents a suicide note more than a week before the incident.

The shooter continued to fire the pistol until it ran out of ammo, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says. When the gunman let go of the pistol, a janitor held him down until the police arrived and took him into custody.

Sharpe is currently facing first-degree murder charges and three counts of attempted murder. Knezovich says his office will recommend charging the 15-year-old as an adult. Ultimately, that decision is up to a judge.

Sharpe's parents released a statement, which says:

"The Sharpe family wishes to offer their deepest condolences and sympathies to the entire Freeman community, especially the families of Sam Strahan, Emma Nees, Jordyn Goldsmith and Gracie Jensen. Our hearts and prayers go out to you in this devastating time. We too as a family are devastated by the events that transpired on Sept. 13 at Freeman High School. The family asks the entire community to join them in praying for, and continuing to pray for all the children and their families that were involved in this incident."
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