IamA John Bowman - Father of one of the youngest school shooting victims - Amina Kocer-Bowman. AMA!
On February 22, 2012 my daughter, Amina, was shot when a classmate reached into his backpack (that contained a .45 caliber handgun stolen from his biological mother's boyfriend) to show another student the weapon. The student told authorities that he brought the gun to protect himself from bullies (he was suspended from school the previous week for fighting).
Amina suffered life threatening injuries requiring 5 surgeries. Injuries include a severed inferior vena cava (the vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the upper half of the body to the heart's right atrium), she also had her spleen removed, damage to her liver and small intestine, a fractured elbow which has a titanium plate (this is where the bullet entered, and likely saved her life). The bullet remains lodged in her back, just millimeters away from her spine. She spend 6 weeks in the ICU and was on a feeding tube for about 3 weeks.
My Proof: : Submitted to Moderators for review. Sent a link to my facebook account, but that doesn't count for verification.. Sending an other form of verification.
I will try to answer all questions as they come.. I have nothing to hide.
Edit: Well It's 3:30 am here and I'm pretty sure more questions will pop-up. I'll be back to answer them as they come. Thanks for listening to my story!
Edit2: Random interweb stranger .. thank you for the gold!
Edit3: going to call it quits for the night.. if i haven't answered your question yet, I will in the morning.
Edit 4: Back to answer a last round of questions. I'm just going to touch on the ones that haven't been answered or discussed.
Thank you all for your time and letting me tell my story!
The day of the shooting, I walked my daughter and her best friend at the time to school. (We only lived 5 houses away) . Little did I know when i hugged her as we rounded the corner to the school that i could have been the last time i could even tell my little monkey that i loved her. (edited a word)
The shooting occurred on a Wednesday (which are an early release day) and I normally took a later ferry to go the the University of Washington (were I was a student) and took classes at night so that I could spend the morning with my kids and work my part-time job at the VA. On this particular day I think I had a mid-term or something and decided to go to the campus early so i had my wife drop me off at the Bremerton Ferry Terminal at about 1:25 pm. As she was pulling away my wife's phone started ringing
At about 1:30 just as i was walking on the ferry, my wife told me that a shooting had occurred in our daughter's class, but she didn't know anything else. I started walking the 2 miles home with no idea what was occurring other than the fact every emergency vehicle in the city was headed towards the school and helicopters were circling my neighborhood. I tried calling my wife be her phone was busy the whole time
I had walked about a 1/2 mile when my neighbor called to tell me that my daughter, Amina, was shot and that she was being transported to the hospital, I almost broke down and cried.
I was in the middle of "nowhere" and had no way to get home, luckily i saw a guy about my age with a toddler coming out of the Post Office. The man asked why were a bunch of helicopter's flying around. I explained that there was a shooting in my daughters class room and asked for a ride. We took off down the street going about 60 in a 35!
When I got to my neighborhood, the roads were filled with anxious parents and emergency vechicles. My wife was requesting confirmation from the Fire Chief that it was our daughter who was transported to the hospital. 2 minutes after I arrived the Fire Chief broke the news and news camera's started appearing out of nowhere as my wifre and son started crying.
We raced to the local hospital and saw Amina's tiny body laying in the operatory, it seemed like the whole hospital was there to try to stabilize her. We were met by her teach who told us how she performed first aid and stopped the bleeding from her abdomen.
We arrived at the hospital just minutes before she was life flighted to Harbor View Medical Center in Seattle (about 15 miles away) and said good-bye and that she's a Bowman and Bowman's never give up.
Then we raced to our house about a mile away and grabbed a bag of of clothing, knowing that we would be in the hospital of a while and hoped that we would be able to catch the ferry which was scheduled to depart. I was on the phone trying to get the ferry held, while driving like a mad man to the ferry terminal.
That ferry ride was the longest hour of my life, but when we arrived at the hospital were we told that Amina had just gotten out of surgery and that they were trying to stop the bleeding but couldn't. We were just happy to have another chance to see her and not have to say good-bye.
Later that evening, following her second surgery which stabilized her condition, our friends and family started arriving.
Do you still keep in contact with the guy who drove you back to your neighborhood?
I wish i could find him and give him a big bro hug.. he was a life saver.
So I sort of skimmed the stories but u didn't see an actual reason for the shooting. I saw that the kid brought the gun for "protection" but what actually escalated the situation to a shooting?
He pulled the trigger when he reached into his bag.
How is she doing today?
Amina is doing better, considering the severity of her injuries. She goes to therapy for PTSD once a week and we recently moved from Bremerton (we lived 5 houses from the school where the shooting occurred) because I got a new job. However she does know that she might not be able to have children.
That possibility has been discussed, but we've been told that even that might have complications.
Would you consider a service dog for Amina? I don't know what her current medical needs are but I know dogs can help with PTSD symptoms. If you'd like I can PM you info about a couple of organizations.
PTSD is so much harder in my own perceptions than the medical side of trauma. My body healed but my mind may never do so completely. I hope all the best for your dear daughter and hope every day gets a little brighter and better :)
Thank you! Amina has a 7 year old Lab and she has been instrumental in her recovery.
How difficult was it to decide to take action against the school district?
The decision to sue the school district was very difficult.... We consulted with family and our neighbors before deciding to take action. We knew that there would be some negative backlash and threats because of the lawsuit, and that we would likely lose friends over it. We've been called everything in the book.. money hungry, ghetto lottery winners, questions about our citizenship status had come up.. someone even suggested that our daughter should be raped by a member of the Catholic church, as we enrolled her into a private school following the shooting.
The tipping point was my medical insurer sending a letter stating that we needed to pay almost $400,000 in medical bills following her discharge from the hospital.
We still don't fell good about having to sue the school district, however since the shooting the school district took the position that the shooting was an accident rather than the direct result of bullying. The continue to take that position to this day and to my knowledge has not changed the way the deal with bullying.
$400,000? Holy crap! That's absurd! Is there any financial aid for victims of these tragedies? Do you have any help with your bills?
The WA State Crime Victims fund would have paid $50,000, but they were payers of last resort. Meaning they would have paid only if i had no other recourse.
The community also held a few fundraisers, but the efforts were far short of the $400,000 (later ballooned to $500,000).
Going back to the fundraising, a lot of community members were very vocal about us ripping them off and wanted refunds for their donation. I been told not to disclose the amount raised, by the trustee, but I can say we are very humbled that the community rallied around our daughter and that we didn't mismanage any of the fund.
Why did they think you had ripped them off after they already donated the money?
Some people view a lawsuit against the school as a lawsuit against the tax payers. We also had family friends telling people that we were using the money inappropriately.
The only purchase made with donated funds, approved by the funds trustee, was a down payment for a new vehicle, that we made the monthly payments on until it was totaled about a year ago in a car accident.
At the time, we had a 10 year old car that had transmission problems and needed to shuttle Amina to up to 7 appointments a week and to specialist in various cities of Puget Sound. Her trustee felt that the purchase was justified.
It's funny what people say anonymously on message boards.
But you said you where retired military...wouldn't tricare cover the medical costs?
Tricare was the one who sent the letter.
Could you explain a little about why Tricare did not cover this? Have you contacted/approached your state representatives about it?
Current AD USAF here and while I dislike Tricare for a lot of things, the one thing it purports to be is comprehensive...so I'm rather livid for you right now.
The explanation I got was that the IDC-10 code was gunshot wound and the result of a crime. In crimes Tricare makes every attempt they can to recover their cost.
I have the letter somewhere, but was rather pissed when I read it a few years back and passed it on to my lawyer to deal with.
What was their basis? Pre-existing conditions? Deductible? I hate insurance companies, they're the bad guys here.
The shooting was a crime and they got first dibs on any money we collected.
As a tax payer in Washington I am glad to hear that the school paid you guys something.I have no problems that my taxes go to help for innocent victims of crime. From what I have heard in the news have horrified me and I have a feeling you weren't gonna get much from the parents. I thought I heard the boyfriend of the mom was charged for not properly securing his fire arm or something like that. This happened awhile ago so my facts may not be straight But alot of us Washingtonians have been praying for your daughter and your family...
I may be wrong but the money comes from a risk pool the insurance company holds and not the tax payers or the schools general fund. This was one of the questions we asked before filing the lawsuit, we are part of the community too and didn't want our taxes our our neighbors taxes to skyrocket.
Sadly the WA Supreme Court says that the gun owner did not break the law by leaving his guns unsecured. Keep in mind that this is also the same state where the courts have ruled that public schools has no responsibility for the safety of your children if another student poses a danger to the general school population Kok V. Tacoma School District. Parents and taxpayers need to speak up so that those guys in Olympia will listen.
Out of interest, why sue the school and not the family of the kid with the gun? I'm from the UK so the American suing culture is a mystery to me!
Thanks for sharing your story and I wish your daughter the best recovery possible.
The child's lawyer claimed bullying was the reason the child brought a loaded gun to school. He claims he told the school he was being bullied and the school did nothing. In America we have anti-harrasment/ anti-bullying laws that are supposed to protect our children in the classroom. Instead the school reportedly ignored his pleas for help and he took matters into his own hands. Hence the school failed to live up to the law by creating a hostile learning environment which resulted in my daughter's shooting. Also American's expect that schools act as in loco parentis, when we drop them off in an institution they are required to attend by law, meaning they are responsible for the care of safety of our children while in their custody. As a result of their failing to deal with the bullying it created an unsafe environment which led to the shooting.
I'm pretty sure a lawyer can explain it better, but that is my layman's understanding.
Im so glad your daughter survived. Do you believe that the kid was really being bullied? If so, do you have any anger toward the bullies, whose behavior is indirectly responsible for what happened?
I'm not sure what to think.. at first the kid brought a gun because he was going to run away from home, next the story morphs into he was being bullied. Shooter's family claims he was bullied and that the teacher said was crying wolf.
I'm not too sure what to believe however the school denies bullying occurred and wanted us to sign a gag order prior to accepting the settlement.
The shooter told 9 of the 22 kids in the class the Friday before the shooting occurred that he was going to bring a gun to school.. not one kid reported it to an adult. Not saying that I'm angry at the kids, but when an environment exist in a school where student wouldn't report such a threat, something is wrong with the school.
From what I've read so far of the situation, it seems likely the mother's boyfriend who allowed the child access to the gun bears much of the responsibility for this incident.
Has there been discussion of a criminal charges against him?
He was charged with 3rd degree assault, however he appealed to the WA State Supreme Court and the charges were dropped.
Did this experience change your views on gun control?
No.. I've always held the viewpoint that you are responsible for what your guns do. If you can't keep them out of the reach of children and can't lock them up you should be charged with child endangerment at the very least.
I view gun ownership much like driving, if you get into an accident and you caused it then you need to pay for damages.
I came into this AMA thinking I was going to run into someone completely convinced that guns are totally evil and that they need to be taken away from everyone. Not a fellow veteran with his head still screwed on straight. I'm glad your daughter is going to be okay, and I wish nothing but the best for her, and your entire family.
Tanker- Took me a while to come to that viewpoint following the shooting. I was pretty pissed at the world for obvious reasons. But then I remembered if you take away weapons from the good guys, then only the bad guys will have them.
What are your views on semi-automatic weapons?
I actually was in the Navy for 19 years ( I was medically retired for PTSD). During my career I worked as a fire arms instructor and taught weapon safety to over 3,000 sailors.
I believe in the right to bear arms, but also believe that it is the individuals responsibility to protect weapons from unauthorized use (including being stolen).
That said, the whole concept that nobody has taken criminal responsibility for the shooting - the kid got a year probation then all charges were dropped, the gunner own appealed the charge (which my wife and I feel was the wrong charge anyway) and the case was dismissed by the WA State Supreme Court a few weeks ago.
Respectfully, I have a few questions about mental health but you are not obligated to answer:
In what ways, if any, does your experience with PTSD help with your daughter's PTSD?
Did this event (as if it weren't traumatic enough on its own) trigger your own PTSD in any way?
And on a more personal note, how are you doing through all of this?
Having PTSD myself, it helps me understand some of Amina's moodiness and desire to be left alone, sometimes I try to encourage her to talk about thats' going on in her head, but more often then not she doesn't let me in. I totally understand and it's frustrating to see my little girl suffer, but we all deal with PTSD differently.
As for the actual event and the aftermath, it effected me so much that I it was part of the reason I discharged from the Navy Reserves.
After agreeing to the settlement a few weeks ago, and getting my medical discharge, I feel like 2 major stressors has been lifted from my shoulders. I'm more relaxed at work and at home and haven't had as many of my 'nam moments where I find myself in the hospital staring at my daughter.
How do you feel about people using events like these to push a political agenda, regardless of their position on topics? Like, for example, people using this specific incident to push either a pro-gun or pro-gun control agenda?
Most of those people push thier agenda's with very bad timing. Some politician tried to introduce a gun control bill in the WA State Legislature shortly after my daughter's shooting, needless to say the bill was shot down and he was accused of dancing in the blood of the incident. I believe that their is a time and a place for pushing a political agenda, but only after all the facts are know and pragmatic solutions are developed .
Hey John, glad to see youre still around. Hadnt heard much from you after you left CPF-0322.
Where are you at these days?
Glad to hear Amina is still hanging in there.
Thanks T! Living in Montana and getting my cowboy on..LOL!
How do you even begin to deal with a situation like this? Is it all that is on your mind now? Is there any sense of "normal" now that it is redefined?
To be honest, it's been difficult. You kind of question if your a good parent for sending your kid to school that has issues like this. After Sandy Hook, I took the day off from work and pulled my son and daughter out of school just to hug them and let them know how much they mean to me.
For a long time this was all that was on my mind, whenever a school shooting occurred my wife would call me and tell me about it and I would get pissed over how much media attention was given to the shooter and not the victim.
Over the last 2 years I been seeing a therapist for PTSD and Anxiety, I was recently discharged from the Navy (Reserves) for PTSD because I could not deploy to Afghanistan. Since then I have taken a job in another state and moved my family to help us heal.
Since moving a month ago, I've noticed that my daughter looks happier and now plays outside, prior to moving she was a recluse and hid in her room. My wife is a lot less stressed about having random people come up to her in the supermarket or the bank and asking her how our daughter is doing, sometimes they even ask how the shooter is doing!
Do you have any suggestions on how to make schools safer from shootings?
My team and I have been mulling over several possibilities.
I think the most important way to make schools safer is more parental involvement, getting rid of zero- tolerance punishment (need for fair treatment and punishment if a kid is retaliating to bullying rather that a harsher punishment) , and more access to intervention resources.
Of course school administrators are more worried about standardized test scores rather than safety.
My team and I have been mulling over several possibilities.
Could you clarify what this team is?
I am working with several lawyers, state representatives, and education experts.. I am not at liberty to disclose names, but they have lots of experiences with school shootings and bullying cases.
I will ask this unpopular question here . What inspired you to do this AMA?
We were muzzled and gagged for a long time.. It's time to get a lot of stuff off my chest and set the record straight.
muzzled and gagged
I think there is lot more to the story which i dont know. Can you elaborate what happened after the shooting took place, some things which are not out there?
School could not produce evidence that kid spoke to teacher or principle about being bullied. Kid had requested help in the past but district could not produce evidence.
Kid claimed he was being bullied and was going to be beat up by older kids.. Fact is he had 2 older sisters who walked him to school and his guardian picked him up from school.
Media and local police put out that gun fired when the student slammed the back pack on the desk - Fact his fingerprints were on the trigger after AFT performed forensic test.
School district still has not offered an apology and wanted us to sign a confidentiality agreement. Why would you want such an agreement if you have nothing to hide?
What's life like for you now?
Life is slowly returning to normal. I took a job out of state after being laid off right before Christmas last year and this has taken a ton of stress away from my wife and kids. We've moved from a suburban area with about 250,000 people to a very rural town with about 9,000 people are are trying to adjust to small town living.
We are looking to draft anti-bullying legislation that would hold schools accountable for failing to report bullying incidents or inform parents that their child is having an issue with bullies at school.
What were the consequences for the shooter?
One year probation and suspension from school, 24-hours of court mandated counseling, and he had to write a letter of apology, which was obviously dictated or written for him by a therapist. After his probation hearing all charges were dropped.
What was the letter like?
Letter of Apology This was obtained by the media and posted on the internet before we received the original copy from the prosecutors office.
How has the community backlash effected your daughter?
We try to shield her as much as we can for some of the vile things people say. At one time we had a Facebook page for her (we controlled content and sat with her while she read the comments) but after the lawsuit was filed we had threats communicated to us.
She knows people have said unkind things about our family and bristles when strangers approach her as she isn't too sure of their intentions.
One of the top trauma surgeon in the US has recommended against removing the bullet due to it's proximity to the nerves in the spinal column.
Amina has slight scoliosis as a result of the bullet and there is a very real possibility that the bullet could move and cause paralysis if she is involved in an automobile accident.
I'm so sorry this happened. I grew up in Bremerton (although I no longer live there) and when I saw this on the news I was shocked.
Do you have second thoughts about sending Amina to school now? I can't imagine ever feeling "safe" after this.
Someday's we had second thoughts about sending her to that particular school before the incident, we lobbied to get her placed into the districts gifted and talented program just weeks before the shooting and had her first screening 5 days before everything happened.
We feel safe with her going to private school with it's parentlal involvement and smal class size. I wouldn't mind sending Amina to public school in our new town and she seems ok with the idea, however my wife doesn't feel that she would do well in a public school settings because of her frequent absences (up to 2-3 a week) for appointments and such.
Wow this is heavy. Would you be able to go into more detail about exactly how the firearm was fired? I still don't really understand.
I had a friend work who works with the ATF and he confirmed that the trigger of the gun was pulled.
This particular model of the gun - H&K .45 ACP has a trigger pull of approximately 12 Lbs and is designed to withstand a drop from 6ft while loaded without going off on accident.
I have a question about your settlement. How much did your family actually receive at the end of the day, after fees, taxes, etc. ? And do you feel its "enough" ? Not whether it was the right amount or appropriate for what occurred, but enough to meet your families needs as a result of the incident. I really hope so.
After attorney fees and medical expenses, roughly 630K.. all funds are being placed into a trust account with a major bank.
We have a team of people looking after her finances and trust fund and plan on using the fund only if needed for educational and medical expenses.
I make pretty good money ~90K a year/ pre-tax, but my wife and I along with our lawyers and her court appointed guardian felt that it was better to settle for a guaranteed dollar amount, rather then go to trail and roll the dice with a jury that would take weeks or months to deliberate and get nothing.
Personally my wife and I would have wanted more for Amina to ensure her future in the event some major medical event happens to her and she couldn't work or take care of herself, because that possibility still does remain.
I live in Seattle and the news report on the case this week has included a statement that Amina could possibly use the money to adopt a child later in life, noting that it would be required if she wishes to have children. This seemed really strange and a bit crass to my ears, what is your opinion of this statement and it having been repeated many times at least on local radio?
The fact we may never have a grandchild from Amina, deeply troubles my wife and I.
In fact when we heard the news, it was devastating considering that we had just had another child and we knew that Amina was robbed of the choice of having children.
A lot of people comment about how good she looks, however we felt it was necessary to talk about the long-term consequences of her injuries.
We moved about a month ago.. took a job out of state in February, after getting laid off right before Christmas.
One of the reasons we moved is because she was constantly reminded of the incident - we lived 5 houses from the school. Amina loves school and looks forward to going everyday, though it is difficult for her to get out of bed sometimes because of the trouble she has sleeping at night.
I hope the change of scenery helps her even a little bit. It seems like it would. Constantly being reminded of a traumatic event definitely doesn't help you heal. I'm sure it's hard enough for her without having to return to the place everyday.
I suffer from anxiety, so I know how debilitating it can be. Plus, insomnia not only makes you feel general awful from lack of sleep, but it's also pretty stressful and frustrating because you want to sleep so badly. Its really tough. She can get through this, though. She's obviously a strong girl. Best of luck to her and your family.
Thank you for the kind words!
How old is your daughter now, and how old was she when this tragedy occurred?
Amina is now 11. she was about 3 weeks shy of her 9th birthday when she was shot.
What happened to the boy that had the gun?
12 months probation, then record was cleared . http://www.king5.com/news/cities/bremerton/Charge-dropped-against-boy-in-Bremerton-school-shooting-192496961.html
How do you feel about that? It sounds like the boy had some serious problems with his home life and possibly some serious issues otherwise (crying wolf, etc). Do you think that he's a danger to society, now or in the future?
This is my opinion and it might not be too popular, but if you can't overcome your circumstances then you'll adapt to your environment.
I know you said your daughter 'became a recluse' after the shooting- Can you elaborate a bit more on how she perceived the whole incident? Did you have to explain to her that it was an accident or have to explain other difficult subjects?
Did she retain her friendships well throughout her recovery (which I understand is necessarily on-going) and "after"?
Was July 4th difficult, or have you had any issues with television/movies depicting mild violence?
I can't even begin to imagine the pain your family has had thrust upon you all. I'm glad to hear you have experienced some headway since your move!
Before the shooting she used to play basketball and ride her bike alot. Amina also liked hanging out with her friends in the neighborhood and was a really silly kid. After the shooting she stayed in the house and took to watching movies and hanging out with her mom. She's told us she was afraid of getting hurt again and that's why she likes to stay inside. In the last few months she's made some progress, we got her to take swimming lessons, she rides her bike in front of our new house and walks to the corner story to get ice cream.
As for friendships, she's had a difficult time maintaining them, she's always been shy and making friends is hard for shy kids, even more-so now when kids and parents gawk at her.
On the fourth of July she doesn't mind organized displays, in fact she enjoys them now. Random booms are more worrisome, so we bought her a pair of headphones that they use for shooting ranges for her protection.
Hi there. I couldn't read and not comment. I'm so sorry your daughter has had to know such pain at such a young age and the psychological trauma that she will also endure. The idea of a child taking a gun to school just horrifies me (Australian) and wonder how you would feel about America adopting gun laws similar to Australia's? There is something terribly sinister about the schools reaction to the shooting. I feel that this would be hard to move on from, although I sincerely hope that you are able to. Best wishes to you all.
I don't think the issue lays with American gun laws, we have enough but they are not enforced.
It's more a social issue, for example, using violence to solve problems rather then address them.
I'm so sorry this happened to her. I noticed in the $1.2 million dollar settlement, the bulk of that was paid by the Bremerton school district. Can you tell me the rationale behind finding fault with the school district? What do you think they should have done differently?
Shooter had a history of violence and getting into fights. He was suspended the week prior to the shooting and had told several students he planned on bringing a gun to school. Also in the weeks previous to the shooting an other student in the classroom attempted to bring knifes to school, school was informed but did not alert parents to this fact.
School district claims no liability for the incident and still has not issued an apology.
Favorite burger place?
Jack in the box, but only is an in-n-out isn't nearby!
After transferring to her new school, did your daughter need to make new ones, or was she also able to keep in touch with her old friends before the shooting incident?
Sadly Amina and her friends in the neighborhood drifted apart, mostly due to going to different schools and having different social schedules.
At her new school she made several friends and had occasional play dates/ and birthday party invites, all the parents at her new school were aware of her situation and were respectful of her boundaries.
Unfortunately we've moved to a new area and she has to start the process all over again, we done our part to get her involved including getting more involved with the church community and trying to introduce her to new kids. We actually are planning a visit to her new school tomorrow.
Your initial reaction?
Numbness.. the whole thing seemed surreal. Everything was moving quickly, but time seemed to slow down. Minutes seemed like seconds.
Do you have any angst towards the shooter?
Yes and no.. Clearly he's a child and he doesn't have any physical restrictions. Hell one day he may even brag about getting away with what he did, because kids are dumb like that.
I blame the adults in his life, for teaching him that violence is the key to solving problems .. his family has been in the news for criminal activity, the gun owner (his mother's boyfriend) was acquitted of murder.. To top it off no criminal charges have been filed against the gun owner after he successfully appealed the assault charge in the WA State Supreme Court.
It pisses me off to no end thinking they really have no consequences for their actions.
Thank you for answering my question. I agree, and I wonder why the case was able to get to thrown out. Do you plan on taking any more action? Or would you prefer for this to end?
No, at this point we'd prefer to move on with our lives. 2 1/2 years to get some sort of closure is a long time. We do plan on getting involved in several anti-bullying campaigns if we are contacted. We had been approached by the Brady Foundation but nixed that idea pretty quickly.
Can you say why your daughter might not be able to have children?
She suffered extensive damage to her superior vena cava, the vien in our body responsible for returning blood to the heart form the legs. It was cut and fused to stop the enormous amount of bleeding (she needed 30 units of blood, the human body has 10-12 units). Since she is young the body naturally develops other ways to return blood to the heart but with up to 65% reduced flow.
Carrying a fetus puts tremendous strain on a woman's body and good blood flow is needed to develop a health fetus.
She also has the bullet in her back, just millimeters from the nerves in the spine, too much pressure or strain on the back could cause paralysis.
I am a bit confused at the situation in the classroom. Is it known exactly what the shooter was doing? Showing off the gun or was he trying to potentially scare a "bully"?
What was your Daughter doing in the classroom when the invident ocurred?
What was the first thing that went through your mind when you got the news?
Sorry if I happen to touch a touchy part of the incident, I hope your daughter has a bright future, and I pray for your family.
The shooting occurred about a minute or 2 before the dismissal bell rang.
My daughter sat next to the shooter, because she was the smart/ quite kid in class and he was a little bit of a problem child, so the teacher wanted him next to her so he wouldn't disrupt the class.
Details are a little sketchy because it was all derived from police statements made by the kids following the shooting, but what likely happened was he was going to pull out the gun to show it to a friend.. .coincidentally that student transferred schools within the week. Another theory is that he was going to shoot the teacher, because he disagreed with the way he was being treated.
Of course we will never know the real story since the boy lied in his depositions and changed his story several times to the police, bullying was never discussed under he had a lawyer.
"Bullying was never discussed until he had a lawyer"
So then why is your focal point about increasing awareness for anti bullying? Do you really truly feel like bullying is the root cause of your daughter's injury?
Yes... Many signs point to the fact he was bullied, including the school withholding the student's disciplinary records and behavior plan. Why would they fight so hard to hide evidence and make us sign a non-disclosure agreement and gag order if they didn't have something to hide.
Have you ever talked to the shooter/parents of that child? What did they say?
No.. I'm pretty sure the outcome wouldn't be very pleasant.
I would like to make you aware of the fact that a hospital bill is an opening bid. It's incredibly insidious and horrible, but most hospitals operate under a chargemaster which is an arbitrary price unrelated to the cost of service, and that the prices thereby derived can sometimes be billed to you as many as three times.
I understand you have a million things to worry about, but if you have the time please, please consider reading this TIME article on the subject (pdf). It is horrendous what these hospitals do to people like you who have way too much on their minds to fight back.
Thank you for your 19 years of service. Also, so that this comment contains a question, what is one of the happiest memories you have had with your daughter in the past year?
Thanks... I remember reading that article when it first came out and was surprised by some of the ridiculous charges.
Our lawyers were able to negotiate her medical expenses to a reasonable amount.. I believe in the ballpark of $70K from $160K in medical liens.
My happiest moment was seeing Amina ride her bike again and going outside to play shortly after moving to our new home.
What do you think of the gun wielding child and child's parents? I.e ability for a kid to grab a .45 and take it to school. And the fact it was accessible like that.
Irresponsible and willing to let a child take all the blame.
So the parent and partner dumped as much blame as possible on a child?!
You can say that.. Child plea bargained and agreed to testify against mother, mother plead guilty to testify against boyfriend/ gun owner, Gun owner lawyer appeals charges to WA State Supreme Court and gets criminal all charges dropped.
I hope I'm not too late to have my question answered. What steps do you think as parents we can take to prevent our children from bullying/ be bullied that it leads to something like this? And what measures do you think school can take?
Honestly my wife and I think parental involvement is the biggest determent to bullying. Not sure if i can find evidence to back it up but this has been our experience.
Anti-bullying programs have proven to be largely ineffective... much like D.A.R.E. in the 80's-90's. The current model of zero-tolerance punishment given to kids who respond to bullying is simply asinine, you want to empower kids to stand up for themselves, instead some react violently and bring weapons to school to solve the problem.
I agree with you whole heatedly. My son has suffered serious bullying. He's expressed to me wanting to hurt other people for the bullying. I'm terrified that someday without proper direction he could be that kid at school with a gun. So we lock them up. He has no access to the safe where they are. Doesn't even know where the safe is. I take him to therapy 2 times a week. Him and I talk all the time on the subject of bullying, how to manage his anger when it happens, and best courses of action in deferent situations. We talk a lot. I check his backpack every day before school. And we talk about the fallout of student violence at school. But there needs to be more. I recently went to a school meeting where they discussed how anti bullying assembly's generally work the opposite of the intended plan. I'd like to start an anti bully program at school and do things like sending letters to parents about securing guns, checking backpacks, and having honest open discussions with their students. I also think every school should have mandatory bully meetings. So if your kid is caught being a bully the parent, the kid, and the victim kid and parents can all get together to discuss the issues that lead to bullying. It will help us all be held accountable for the actions of our students.
I specifically like your idea about mandatory bully conferences.. I mean schools have them for IEP's and when kids receive other special services.
Do you entirely blame the kid for your daughters situation? Do you resent him? Do you sympathize his situation?
No, he needed access to a gun. Having one lying around in his mothers boyfriends house provided that opportunity. Second bullying was an issue and never addressed by the school.
The remainder of your question is have already answered .
I'm a little late... My question is, do you feel the shooter should've been held more responsible than he was? And he was only suspended?!? He should've been expelled.
He was expelled, however i don't think it was for the full year that was required.
How have you changed since the event?
Following the shooting I was angry a lot! I was diagnosed with PTSD a few months prior to the shooting and went off my medication. I wanted to do terrible things and contemplated suicide on more than one occasion. The shooting coupled with my inability to find a job were just too much to handle, yet I put on a happy face to hid my anger.
Since then I learned who I am and how to manage my illness. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and got off my ass to do something about my situation.
I now have an awesome job, that I enjoy very much and have become a better father. I talk to my children and listen to what they say. I notice when things aren't quite right and try to figure out how to help them cope or deal with their problem.
What is your take on gun laws before and after the shooting? Do you think more guns is the solution or more restrictions is the solution? Or that every school should carry firearms along with security guards?
Not really a gun debate.. I think accountability and responsibility is the solution.
How do you feel about gun laws?
We have enough gun laws in place at the state and federal level.. they just need to be enforced!
How do you handle her not having a spleen? Does the fact that the bullet is still inside of her raise worries of infection? I know people without spleens have it much harder dealing with the flu, pneumonia and other diseases.
We are very careful and monitor her health closely. My wife is in the health care field (Medical Assistant) and she keeps a retty close eye on Amina.
I just moved to Bremerton a year ago. Gun related violence seems so rare here. What line of work was the boyfriend in? Did he have any explanation for not having his gun secured? Glad to hear your daughter is continuing to recover.
I know it's reddit's policy to not give out that information or witch hunts start.
I sat in many of his depositions and during his testimony in criminal court and basically all he could say to defend his actions were " it's not against the law" meaning WA state has no provisions for prosecuting negligent storage of firearms.
Serious question: I was reading further down you still support the right to bear arms, and hold no grudges to want guns banned or what not, will you ever teach your daughter to shoot or let her make that decision?
Best of luck for your guyses future endeavors.
That is going to be something Amina will have to decide. We live in Montana where hunting is the norm and young kids go to wal-mart with thier days to pick up ammo for the .22.
So wait, she was accidentally shot or intentionally shot?
Accidentally shot, but we believe that someone else in the class room was the target that day.
Has your stance towards gun laws in the US changed? Do you own guns yourself?
We have enough gun law that aren't enforced. I will never own a hand gun for obvious reasons.
Has this incident changed your views on the right to own firearms?
No.. I've always believed in the right to bear arms..
I'm local to Bremerton and I remember this happening. How is Amina doing with going to school now?
Academically she is doing well. Her best subjects are Language Arts and Music. Socially she is coming along and even started speaking up in class this year. Hopefully things improve at her new school.
What where your initially thought when you found out what had happened, and what were your first instinctive thoughts regarding your actions against others?
The first question I asked the doctors was what type of gun she was shot with. When I heard she took a 45 at close range my heart sank and honestly didn't think my daughter was going to live.
All I thought was I went to effing Iraq and survived, my daughter went to school and died, how the eff is that fair.
Inside I was numb for days, i didn't sleep are eat and the nurses had to kick us out of the hospital. I was so busy thinking about my daughter i really didn't have time to be pissed off at anyone.
Why is this even een AMA? No offense, but suffering is universal and being the father of a child whom survived a shooting doesn't make you an expert in anything. My (serious) question is: What do you hope to achieve with this AMA?
One of the other commenters put it much better then i can : My read from his responses: during the years he was waiting for some sort of criminal justice, pre-occupied with treatment for his daughter, and during litigation, he felt felt muzzled from fully responding to the developing media narrative of what exactly happened, and the community harassment his family experienced. Now that he's moved passed some of it all, he wanted to tell his story (his doubts about the shooter's narrative, how rough the community harassment was, his family's ongoing struggles, etc)
Do the conspiracy theories for Newtown and Aurora etc. bother you?
They have about as much merit as birther's and truther's
Why are you doing an AMA?
see above for answer.
Have you thought about dedicating your entire life to being the father of a victim? Or maybe just going on with the rest of both your lives.
My wife and I have had offers to help draft anti-bullying legislation and would be up to speaking at conferences to talk about our experiences. In some sense I'd would like to be more involved in anti-bullying but only if the right opportunity presents itself as i have a pretty awesome job.
I will wait for the "Verified" tag from the mods, if that is okay. A lot of people try gaming this system, if you know what I mean?
edit: Good lord! Downvotes already? Redditors, there is no reason to believe OP, except the idea that you desperately want to believe OP.
Ask yourself why you do, okay?
Verified.. what's you're question?
Could you do a rundown on what was happening when you heard the news? What was happening before, during, and around that time?
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