Derrick Schonauer (far left) received the Public Service Award at the Red Cross of the Heartland Heroes breakfast as students (left to right) Trevor Bixby, Daniel Imode and Sean Kennedy look on. (Photo by Beth Whisman/WJBC)
By Eric Stock
BLOOMINGTON - The Normal Community teacher who subdued a gunman in his classroom doesn't believe the student intended to harm anyone.
Derrick Schonauer was given the Public Service Award at the Red Cross of the Heartland Heroes breakfast.
Schonauer said he had a special relationship with the student who brought guns and other weapons to school and held a class hostage at the start of classes on Sept. 7.
"He had his chances to inflict injury on someone, but he never took that opportunity. Mainly, I think he just wanted to be heard. Obviously, he could have gone in a much better manner than he did. I don't think he truly intended to hurt anybody," Schonauer said.
Schonauer tackled the boy as he and another student were able to take the gun away from the gunman. Two shots were fired into the ceiling, but no one was injured.
"I don't think he deserves the brunt end of the punishment. Kids make mistakes everyday, obviously his was a little more serious than others. In my opinion, everyone deserves a second chance," Schonauer said.
Schonauer said he hasn't talked to the boy since the incident, but said he would like to ask how he's doing.
"I'm still concerned about the kid, worried about him. I'd like to see the come out of this situation for him," Schonauer said.
Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus has said it was a case of fight or flight and Schonauer made the right choice.
Three students in the class accepted the award with Schonauer: Trevor Bixby, Daniel Imode and Sean Kennedy.
"They deserve every bit as much credit as I got. They were with me from the beginning, all of the way to the end. Without them, I don't think the situation would have turned out how it did," Schonauer said.
Schonauer said he was just doing what any teacher would have done in that situation and that he was touched by the honor from the Red Cross.
"What went on that day was one of the scariest days of my life, but to hear support from friends, family and to get this honor, it puts the icing on top," Schonauer said.
The 14-year-old boy faces a Dec. 17 trial. He faces 16 felony counts and remains in juvenile custody.
Eric Stock can be reached at email@example.com.