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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
their vacations and getting back into the swing of things when Andrew Golden, clad in camouflage clothing, entered the middle school at approximately 12:35 p.m., just a few minutes after fifth period had started, and pulled the fire alarm. At least two students saw Andrew pull the alarm and leave the building. The students told their teachers what Andrew had done, but everyone filed out of the building through their assigned exit routes, as required. The 87 students and 9 teachers who exited the west entrance were met with a hail of gunfire.
Many of the details of the shooting were probably planned during the spring break the week before the shooting, but the boys may have been talking about the idea together for months in advance, possibly as early as December 1997. One person close to both Mitchell and Andrew suggested that their initial discussions about the shooting were casual or just “talking big,” and then one day, less than a week before the shooting, one of them suggested they really do it and the other agreed. Yet precisely who was the leader and who was the follower in this partnership is in dispute.
On the morning of the shooting, Mitchell and Andrew were absent from school. Mitchell missed the bus and told his mother that his stepfather, who had actually already left for work, would give him a ride. When Mitchell’s mother, who was caring for her 2-year-old daughter and babysitting for a neighborhood boy, looked out the window and saw that the van was gone, she assumed that her husband still had it. Instead, Mitchell took the van and drove it to Andrew Golden’s home. Andrew’s parents, who had left for work, had left Andrew home alone to catch the bus on his own that morning, as they had recently started doing. Instead of taking the bus, Andrew hid in some bushes near his home and waited for Mitchell to pick him up. The boys attempted to get guns from Andrew’s house, but the majority of his father’s guns had recently been placed in a safe and the boys were unable to gain access to them, even after trying to break the safe open with a blowtorch. They took a .38 caliber derringer, a .38 caliber snub-nose, and a .357 magnum that were not secured and then drove over to Andrew’s grandparents’ house. They broke into the house with a crowbar and found an arsenal of weapons— a wall completely lined with rifles—secured only by a cable running across them. From the grandparents’ shed, the boys found some cable clippers and used them to break the cable and steal four handguns and three rifles.
Contrary to popular perceptions in the community of a carefully executed plan, there were many glitches along the way on the day of the shooting. First, at 13, Mitchell was not a seasoned driver and he apparently had some trouble with the van. It was also low on gas and when the two boys tried to get some, they were unable to operate the pump and were refused service because they appeared too young. For reasons that