Friends, neighbors look for answers in school shooting

Tuesday, December 7th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FORT GIBSON, Okla. (AP) -- A day after a 13-year-old was accused of shooting four schoolmates, friends and neighbors in this rural town were baffled as to why a popular, churchgoing, honor-roll student would do such a thing. He liked video games, touch football and his mom's cookies. He had a birthday party every year. And yet, on Monday, the seventh-grader allegedly opened fire outside the Fort Gibson Middle School with the gun his father had bought a few years ago at a Wal-Mart.

Four students were wounded, though none of their injuries was considered life-threatening. A fifth student was grazed by a bullet that ricocheted, police Chief Richard Slader said. That student's injuries initially had been described as bumps and bruises. "He was always nice to everybody. He was real popular. You would never have known him to do anything like this," said Deania Pruitt, an eighth-grade cheerleader.

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 Seth Trickey. "He was a `no sir, yes sir' kid," said Tina Mayo, who lives across the street with her 13-year-old son, Michael. "We played football, Nintendo and hide and seek," Michael Mayo said of Seth's birthday party Friday night. Most young witnesses said the boy didn't say anything during the shooting. But Justin Barnes told Tulsa television station KOTV that the boy started yelling: "I'm crazy, I'm crazy." Sheriff's Lt.Tim Brown said, "To our knowledge, the boy never said a word."

Slader said the boy fired at least 15 times outside the school before a science teacher pinned him against a wall, and had more ammunition available. Authorities said they weren't aware of any previous trouble involving the teen, who attended church regularly. He didn't leaveany notes, and his parents have refused to let him talk with police. Because of his age, police need permission to question Seth. Officers searched his home and several school lockers.

Shaila Benjamin said she rode the school bus with the boy. "He lived in a very nice, very pretty home. Lots of people liked him," she said. Prosecution as a juvenile could lead to a sentence as harsh as incarceration until age 21 or as lenient as being returned to the custody of his parents with instructions to undergo treatment.

Students returning to school Tuesday were met with metal detectors, more than 50 counselors and uniformed officers. "They're going to be all right," said Ronnie Darden as he waited to drop off his 10-year-old daughter, Kay leigh, and 12-year-old son, Drew. "We have more than adequate faith in the administration and the school." Classes for the middle school students were held in an adjacent elementary school. The middle school remained closed as authorities wrapped up their investigation.

Tuesday night, several hundred students and parents filled the high school gymnasium as administrators and faculty from the elementary, middle and high school answered written questions submitted by those in attendance. Questions ranged from whether the schools would have a permanent officer on campus to when students would be allowed back into the middle school.

School officials said they look 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. Some of the teachers began the morning by letting students make greeting cards for the three students still hospitalized. A 12-year-old girl was in fair condition with a cheek wound, a 13-year-old was wounded in the forearm and another 13-year-old underwent surgery for a leg wound.

Middle school teacher Tammy Harris has all of the injured students as well as the accused shooter in her class. The students say they are ready to heal and get back to a normal school environment, Ms. Harris said. "They want to reflect on this without a lot of outsiders looking at us," she said. For now, Michael Mayo is staying home from school. Drew Darden and most other students returned Tuesday. "I'm still a little scared," Drew said. "But it means a lot to be back with friends.”