Everett Teen Sentenced 22 Years for School Shooting Plot

Everett Teen Sentenced 22 Years for School Shooting Plot

 

The 19-year-old was storing a rifle in his bedroom along with plans for a mass shooting at his high school in his personal notebook.

A 19-year old teenager from Everett, Wash., was convicted of planning a high school shooting and sentenced to 22.5 years in prison.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss sentenced Joshua O’Connor on Thursday, after a three-hour court hearing on Feb. 12, reports HeraldNet.

It was O’Connor’s grandmother, Catherine Katsel O’Connor, who called 911 out of concern for her grandson and the safety of others.

“To me, ma’am, you are a hero,” the judge told her.

In Feb. 2018, she found a spiral notebook in his room full of plans for a massacre. He was also hiding a rifle in his guitar case.

“I’ve been thinking a lot. I need to make this shooting/bombing at Kamiak infamous,” the judge read from the notebook. “I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I NEED to make this count.”

His initial target was going to be at Kamiak High School, where he previously attended and was suspended twice. Then he decided to flip a coin to see if he would shoot Kamiak or his then-current school, ACES, an alternative high school.

“The results: I’m coming for you Ace’s,” he wrote. “(Expletive) Kamiak you (expletives) got lucky. I hope someone follows in my footsteps and gets you dumb (expletives). I can’t wait to (expletive) up Ace’s! April is gonna be a blast.”

Police also seized grenades and other evidence that proved O’Connor carried out an armed robbery at a local minimart last year.

O’Connor’s plan for the massacre was to plant pressure-cooker bombs under the bleachers, zip-tie door handles and “mow kids down in the hallway and gym,” according to his journal.

He chose a day in late April of last year to align with the Columbine High School shooting.

As his final act, O’Connor planned to kill himself or die in a shootout with the police. He even hand-wrote his will.

O’Connor was also accused of attempting to plan a second school shooting from behind bars this past year.

An inmate told police that O’Connor tried to recruit him to bomb Kamiak and shoot up another high school in May 2018. The inmate claimed to have been beaten in jail because word was leaked that he told an attorney about the scheme.

O’Connor allegedly recruited another inmate, Travis Hammons, to carry out the beating. Hammons was charged with first-degree assault and is awaiting trial.

The teen’s defense team argued that his past has left him stunted and immature. His mother was untreated for an undiagnosed mental illness and he suffered physical abuse.

They asked for a sentence of 12 years in prison, but the judge believed O’Connor was aware of the consequences of his action and that he spent months plotting out the details.

“This was not the work or the brain of a youth with low impulse control,” Weiss said. “It was a plan, premeditated and contemplated. It was not an impulsive act.”

O’Connor wrote in a statement to the court that he feels remorse and embarrassment for his disturbing thoughts. He says at the time he was suicidal and abusing drugs and alcohol.

Over the last year, he says he has matured, turned to religion and is preparing to take college courses.

 

Johns Hopkins Faculty Members Oppose Private School Police Force

Johns Hopkins Faculty Members Oppose Private School Police Force

 

More than 60 Johns Hopkins University faculty members are attempting to stop the school from creating its own private police force.

They have signed an open letter in opposition to the proposed state legislation that would authorize this change, report The Baltimore Sun.

In the letter, members wrote that armed police officers could pose an increased safety risk and “inevitably amplify the climate of fear and justify their roles by citing stops, arrests and detainments.”

Concerns for the nonwhite population in Baltimore were also voiced in the letter.

“Black and brown students and Baltimoreans are already disproportionately targeted,” they wrote. “Private police on campus are likely to exacerbate racial profiling, with even more dangers and potentially fatal consequences.”

johns hopkins university

Johns Hopkins released to The Brew these updated statistics of aggravated assaults and street robbery that took place in and around the Homewood and East Baltimore campuses between 2014 and the end of 2018.

A poll by the Student Government Association showed 75 percent of JHU undergraduates are against the legislation.

Students, faculty and residents of West Baltimore congregated this week to protest, chanting, “No justice, no peace, no private police.”

If the bill is passed, JHU would join several Baltimore schools that have their own police forces, including Morgan State University, Coppin State University, the University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Currently, there is a group of armed off-duty Baltimore police officers and sheriff’s deputies that the university pays to patrol near its campuses. The plan would be to convert those officers into its own police force of around 100 officers.

Karen Lancaster, a spokeswoman for JHU, responded to the letter by stating, “We believe strongly that university police departments can and do make a meaningful contribution to public safety in Baltimore, and we at Johns Hopkins want to do our part.”

According to the school, it needs its own police force as Baltimore has seen an increase in violent crime (see charts from the Baltimore Brew).

Last year, the group Students Against Private Police rallied in opposition to the plan. The push for a new police force failed the first time around, however, Lancaster says the response to Senate Bill 793 has been “positive.”

While several members support creating a private police force, most of Baltimore’s legislators in the General Assembly say they remain undecided.

About the Author

Katie Malafronte

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Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety’s Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS’s Web Editor since 2018.

Broward County Schools May Install Experimental AI Surveillance System

Broward County Schools May Install Experimental AI Surveillance System

 

Broward County school district has announced it will be unveiling an experimental artificial-intelligence (AI) system to keep students under surveillance.

The camera-software system from Avigilon will allow security officials to track students based on their appearance, reports the Washington Post.

One year ago tomorrow, a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 students and staff dead. Broward County has been under scrutiny for its security since the shooting, especially after a report released last month called out many flaws.

School administrators say the 145-camera system will be installed around the perimeters of the schools that they have flagged “at highest risk.” This is on top of 10,000 cameras that are currently installed across the county’s schools.

Guards will be able to pull up video everywhere a particular student has been recorded on campus with the click of a button.

According to a survey from the National Center for Education Statistics, surveillance cameras have expanded from nearly 20 percent of all public schools in 1999 – the year of the Columbine shooting – to over 80 percent as of 2015. However, in 2016, Campus Safety magazine found that more than nine in ten K-12 campuses have adopted video surveillance.

The new system does not come without questions and concerns from students, parents and teachers.

Kimberly Krawczky, a teacher who was present during the shooting last year, voiced her concerns about the system’s accuracy, invasiveness and effectiveness. She is not convinced AI could understand a campus as well as a human.

“How is this computer going to make a decision on what’s the right and wrong thing in a school with over 3,000 kids?” she said. “We have cameras now every two feet, but you can’t get a machine to do everything a human can do. You can’t automate the school. What are we turning these schools into?”

Some technology and civil liberties experts argue that the camera software has no proven track record for preventing school violence, an increasing issue in schools across the country.

Avigilon, which was bought by Motorola Solutions for $1 billion last year, says its algorithm allows risky behavior to be spotted with superhuman speed and precision.

Elizabeth Laird, current senior fellow at the Center for Democracy & Technology, however, says the system has not had much public testing for validity or long-term impact.

Because the system is so new and still considered “experimental,” there are factors that remain unclear, like how its data and performance will be regulated, measured and tested for flaws.

She fears the system will diminish an environment where students feel they can express themselves freely and think independently.

“We’re seeing that the uses of AI and technology like this are coming with unintended consequences, things the education sector has not experienced before, that may endanger the students it intends to protect,” she said.

Avigilon’s technology does not use facial-recognition software, and Laird fears that students could be wrongfully identified as dangerous based solely on what they wear or where they walk.

This component, however, could be what sets the system apart from other surveillance technology. An individual can be tracked as long as their body is on camera, not necessarily their face.

If the AI system is approved, Broward County will spend more than $600,000 in federal and local funds to install it in the high school campuses.

Kenneth Preston, a Broward high school senior who has criticized the district’s spending in the past, fears the surveillance will be used to target individuals.

“Maybe Johnny isn’t performing exceedingly well, so let’s track him to see why. And you don’t even have to sit by those cameras to watch him. It’s a system that can be abused and will be abused.”

Broward County schools have not yet been given the green light to install the system. Whether the Avigilon contract wins final approval from county leaders in the coming weeks or not, there is no denying that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy has spurred schools across the country to take a closer look at their security and make student safety a priority.

About the Author

Katie Malafronte

Contact: 

Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety’s Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS’s Web Editor since 2018.

Conservative Activist Attacked on UC Berkeley Campus

Conservative Activist Attacked on UC Berkeley Campus

While recruiting students for a grass-roots conservative organization at the University of California Berkeley last week, an activist was confronted by two men. One of them began pushing him repeatedly and then punched him in the face.

The UCPD said that officers responded Tuesday afternoon to a “report of disturbance,” on upper Sproul Plaza, a center of student activity, according to CNN.

Hayden Williams, who is not a student at UC Berkeley, works for the Leadership Institue, which helps conservative students and clubs on campuses.

He was asked by the group Turning Point USA to assist them in recruitment.  The group is meant to be a network for Americans on college campuses and in high schools.

Williams, 26, has injuries to his face, police say, and the incident was captured on multiple witness’ phones. On Tuesday, it was announced by UC Berkeley officials that the police were preparing to apprehend a suspect on a felony charge.

“They’re willing to use violence if they think you’re being too controversial,” Williams said.

During the week following the incident, campaigns have been led by activists at UC Berekely and nationally, questioning how the school and police would respond.

“Wonder if it would be the same if a conservative beat up a leftist on the Berkeley Campus?” President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

Within days of the attack, authorities said they had identified a possible suspect. Campus activists, however, felt the response time was too slow.

Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA asked, “A conservative is the victim of a vicious attack, and no one is held responsible?”

Despite speculation, university spokesman Dan Mogulof confirmed neither the university or police department acted with any liberal bias, reports the Washington Post.

Bradley Devlin, a UC Berkeley student and former president of the College Republicans on campus, also condemned the chancellor for not sending a mass statement about the incident.

Soon after, Chancellor Carol Christ and Vice Chancellor for student affairs Stephen C. Sutton addressed the community in a letter.

“Let there be no mistake, we strongly condemn violence and harassment of any sort, for any reason,” they wrote. “That sort of behavior is intolerable and has no place here. Our commitment to freedom of expression and belief is unwavering.”

About the Author

Katie Malafronte

Contact: 

Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety’s Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS’s Web Editor since 2018.

 

Stillwater emergency response team seeks to expand

STILLWATER — Resident Marcia Bradley recognizes that Stillwater, even when compared to the rest of Sussex County, is known for its rural environment and relative isolation from other municipalities.

While many enjoy the peace and quiet Stillwater offers, Bradley noted the lack of a police department as one aspect that is a drawback to the community.

“The State Police take care of our town and they do a great job,” she said, “but it’s just different than having your own department.”

With that in mind, Bradley is seeking other residents to join the newly formed Stillwater Township CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) initiative. Members of the program take classes to prepare them for a variety of disaster-related situations, including lessons in fire safety, CPR and other medical procedures, search-and-rescue techniques, and even terrorism.

The Stillwater CERT, under the direction of the Office of Emergency Management, was officially established by the Township Committee at its Nov. 20 meeting. The move came after Bradley told the committee in October that three residents — Kathleen Marshall, Charles Keppler and Paul LaMarca — were enrolled in the program and would complete the necessary classes on Nov. 3.

Bradley lauded the recent efforts of Linda Grinthal in spearheading the formation of a CERT program in Andover Township and is hopeful that the same initiative will now find success in Stillwater. While she said the program would be a valuable piece of any municipality, the presence of one in her township takes on added significance because it does not have its own police department.

“That’s one of the main differences between Stillwater and Andover,” Bradley said. “I think it’s really important, in areas like this, to have a group of (trained) people.”

Interested residents can apply to be admitted into the program and, following a background screening, take part in a rigorous course that covers numerous emergency situations. Training often takes place over a period of several weeks followed by a practical and written exam, though Bradley said the Stillwater CERT does not have a schedule finalized at this point.

Bradley, who has been involved with the Sussex County and Sparta CERT programs over the past two years, said the main goal for Stillwater CERT moving forward is to increase its outreach beyond the current four members.

“We’re looking to expand, for sure,” Bradley said. “As we get more people, we’ll definitely have more programs in Stillwater.”

In fact, she added, the Township Committee has already offered the meeting room of the municipal building as a location for CERT classes.

Bradley has spent several months advertising classes for the Sussex County CERT through word of mouth and by leaving fliers at local businesses. With Stillwater now having its own organization, she said she is “excited” to grow the initiative closer to home.

For more information on the Stillwater Township CERT, contact Marcia Bradley at 973-383-9783 or marciabrad@ptd.net.

By New Jersey Herald