By Eric Stock:
NORMAL – The Normal Community High School student who took control of the gun that a classmate had fired into the classroom ceiling on Friday is telling his story.
Freshman Sean Kennedy described to WJBC’s Scott Laughlin and Colleen Reynolds how a 14-year-old boy went to the front of the class, got everyone’s attention and reached into his backpack to pull out a pistol, a hatchet, a canteen full of kerosene and a bottle of painkillers.
Kennedy said he initially thought it was a hoax or possibly a school violence demonstration as the boy started asking everyone what each of the items were, but quickly realized the incident was real.
“He put a bullet in the barrel and dropped one. I don’t know how he dropped it, but I saw him pick up a bullet, and that’s when I thought, ‘ Oh no, this is real,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said some students were able to escape from the room when the boy ordered every student in the class to hug one of the students who had started to cry. Kennedy said he thought about fleeing too, but thought that might make him an easier target. He decided to duck instead.
He then ordered everyone still in the classroom to go up against the wall.
“He said ‘They didn’t want to listen, you listened. I like you guys,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said he recalled the boy only making one specific threat to a student who asked why he was going to do anything to them. The boy had placed the gun down after he started engaging in small talk with the classmates. Teacher Derrick Schonauer stepped in, grabbed the gun and then tackled the boy after he tried to take the gun back from Schonauer.
Kennedy then took the gun from the teacher and placed it on the teacher’s desk until police arrived. He said the incident all happened within about 10 minutes, though he said it seemed much longer than that.
Kennedy said he hopes people will notice when a student isn’t fitting in at school. He said he didn’t now the student well, but said Schonauer seemed to pay special attention to him, making sure he said hello to him everyday. The boy had made several references to people not paying attention to him, specifically his parents, when he told them he had been bullied.
Several hundred people, including NCHS students, parents, family and friends attended a prayer service at the school on Sunday.
Schonauer will join Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus at a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Monday to offer more details about the shooting.
NCHS students returned to class Monday morning with assurances from teachers and staff that it is a “safe school.” Unit 5 reminded students as they entered the school that the district offers a bullying hotline to report concerns and offer support.
The 14-year-old gunman is expected to appear in McLean County juvenile court Monday afternoon.
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.