School official say shooting couldn't have been prevented

Wednesday, December 8th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FORT GIBSON, Okla. (AP) -- If students wore uniforms or if the Ten Commandments were posted in classrooms, then maybe a shooting that wounded four middle school students would not have happened, members of this rural community say. Perhaps mandatory, see-through backpacks or a school police officer would have made a difference. Those sentiments came through Tuesday night at a town meeting where residents continued to grapple with the question of what could have stopped a fellow student from pulling a 9mm semiautomatic handgun from his backpack and firing 15 rounds outside Fort Gibson Middle School.

Superintendent Steve Wilmoth said the boy didn't give any signs, and he believes nothing could have prevented the shooting Monday morning that wounded four students and injured another. He also could not guarantee that there would not be another tragedy. "I hope to God it never happens again at Fort Gibson," Wilmoth told several hundred people who gathered in the high school gym.

Residents asked school administrators how long counseling would be available, when the media were going to leave, and what security measures would be taken. They applauded loudly after the question was read, "Why not put the Ten Commandments and prayer back in school?" Administrators said they are looking at several possible security measures, including a full-time police officer, frequent use of metal detectors or even the possibility of clear backpacks for students.

Lynn Sparks attended the meeting with her 13-year-old daughter, Kelli. "We just wanted to come out and show our support for the school and staff," Ms. Sparks said. Most of the middle school's 400 students returned to school Tuesday, including Kelli. The eighth-grader said it helped to back with classmates so fast. "We were just glad to be with our friends -- to let our emotions go," she said.

Most parents said they just want to know more about the shooter. Authorities and the boy's lawyer have refused to release his name because of his age and because charges have not been filed, but schoolmates who witnessed the shooting identified the boy as 13-year-old Seth Trickey. Investigators said they weren't aware of any previous trouble involving the teen, who attended church regularly. He didn't leave any notes, and his parents have refused to let him talk with police. Because of his age, police need permission to question Seth.

The boy's pastor, the Rev. Jeff Burress of the First United Methodist Church of Fort Gibson, is one of the few who has talked with the boy. "I talked to him and gave him a big hug," Burress told the Tulsa World. "He's a scared 13-year-old boy. He's a scared kid who's as confused as any of us are."

Most of his classmates described him as popular, smart and shy. Many didn't have anything bad to say about him. "He was a polite kid and just like most boys, he would bow his head when you asked him a question," said Tina Mayo, who lives across the street with her 13-year-old son, Michael. The Trickeys are "sweet, loving people," Ms. Mayo said. Seth's parents were careful on what types of movies he watched and video games he played. He often rode bike and played football with the other boys in the neighborhood, she said. "We just hung out," Michael Mayo said. He was at Seth's birthday party just three days before the shooting. They played hide-and-seek and stayed up all night, he said.

Middle school teacher Tammy Harris has the accused shooter in her science class. She also couldn't tell anything was wrong. Many students were baffled, unable to find any explanations as they discussed the shooting on the first day back. "There is some anger. It's mainly because they don't know why," Ms. Harris said. "We'll never know until that child says why it happened."