Student Shooter Not Taken Seriously Until Too Late

Tuesday, March 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

If he was not talking about owning a gun, Charles "Andy" Williams was spinning some wild tale about stealing a car and riding off to Mexico.

As recently as last weekend, though, he seemed to embrace a more ominous idea, one he had raised on and off for months: shooting up his new high school. He even offered to enlist some friends in the plot.

As always, no one really took him seriously.

But in a tragic repeat of other school shootings that have rocked rural and suburban communities from Kentucky to Colorado in recent years, the teenager is accused of making good on his boasts. The 15-year-old freshman is being held in a mass shooting that left two dead and 13 wounded at Santana High School in the San Diego suburb of Santee.

In many ways, the broad outlines of Andy Williams' life fit the profile of the suspects in the string of school shootings. Pale and scrawny, he was the constant butt of jokes.

After moving to California from Maryland, he hung out with a bunch of skateboarders who dabbled in drugs and did not fit in with the mainstream high school crowd. And when he talked about his plans for mass murder, no one knew quite what to make of them.

"He was a talker," said Andrew Kaforey, 17, a Santana senior who said he knows the boy well. "He would talk a lot of stuff and would not act on it. He'd say he's going to steal a car and drive to Mexico. That he was going to shoot people. You wouldn't really think about it."

Others said they didn't put much stock in the teenager's bravado. Chris Puttbrese, 16, said when he heard rumors that Andy was thinking about bringing a gun to school, he thought he didn't have the nerve to do it.

Jacob Kaforey, Andrew Kaforey's younger brother, said that the teen seemed to enjoy the attention that his bragging brought to him: "He would just say anything that he thought would be cool."

The suspect and his father moved to California from tiny Knoxville, Md., in Frederick County, last year. Neighbors near the two-story, yellow clapboard home where the teenager had lived in Maryland described him as small, unassuming and the frequent victim of neighborhood bullies.

The Williams home was vandalized within the last two years, one neighbor said, and the vandals concentrated on the boy's room, shooting at his television with BB guns. In another incident, a treehouse the boy had built near his home was "torn apart" by bullies, the neighbor said.

"He was small and couldn't defend himself, so the punks would pick on him," said the neighbor, who identified himself only as Phil. "Maybe he just got tired of being picked on."

Andy attended Brunswick Middle School, the neighbor said, and his father worked at Fort Detrick in Frederick. He told neighbors he had gotten a job with the U.S. Park Service in California shortly before leaving for California in a U-Haul truck.

After arriving in the middle-class town of Santee, Andy shaved his head and constantly wore a blue hooded sweat shirt bearing a Navy insignia.

In his new town, he tried hard to fit in and ran with a fast crowd. He was often teased about his stature, but he never fought back. He would run away or use his quick wit to deflect the taunts.

Teenager after teenager hanging out in front of Santana High School, or rolling around at a local skate park, said they would never have expected a murderous outburst from the youth.

"He was at our house not a week ago," said Amber Townsend, 14. "He was always smiling. If you can think of any friend who was unlikely to do this, it's him."

But he also frequented the skate park where kids from the high school used to hang out and get high. Drugs were readily available for those who wanted them: marijuana, mushrooms, acid, speed. And even young teens would get drunk on the weekends.

The teenager, they said, smoked pack after pack of Marlboro Reds. Friends said he got into a fistfight with a fellow skater two weeks ago.

But even in the skate park, some of his stranger ideas raised eyebrows – if not real concern. A few weeks ago, Jesse Cunard, 18, heard Andy boast that he "could bring down the school" and not get caught.

Taken as a joke

"I thought he was joking," the 18-year-old said.

But by last weekend, "everybody knew about" the plan to bring a gun to school, said Samantha Davis, 17. Last Saturday night, Andy and about five other friends got drunk at a bonfire at a friend's house.

Fifteen-year-old Neil O'Grady was surprised when Andy "blurted out how he was going to bring a gun to school and shoot people. He said a song inspired him."

Again, there was disbelief.

"I said, 'Yeah, right.' He didn't seem like that kind of person. He's funny, always messing around a lot."