According to accounts that Carneal gave to police and to psychiatrists, he stole his father’s .38 special pistol from a locked box in his parents’ bedroom closet several weeks before the shooting. He later told mental health professionals who evaluated him after the shooting that he considered using it to kill himself, but he did not want to hurt his family. He brought the gun to school, showed it to several classmates, and told them he wanted to sell it. An older boy heard that he had the gun and told Carneal that if he did not sell it to him, he would tell the police. Carneal gave him the gun with the promise that the boy would pay him later, but he never did.
The shooting took place on the Monday after Thanksgiving. According to Carneal, a few days before, he snuck into a friend’s father’s garage and stole a .22 pistol and ammunition, the gun he ultimately used in the shooting.4 He had previously fired guns with this young man and his father. Carneal brought this gun to school the day before Thanksgiving break, again seeking to impress his classmates, but the ploy did not work because they said the gun was “small.” None of the students reported to school authorities that Carneal had a gun. They would later say that they did not think he had any bullets and did not think he would do anything with it. Carneal often had strange things in his possession and commonly showed them to people for the purpose of getting attention.
The week before Thanksgiving, Carneal warned students that “something big is going to happen on Monday” and even warned some specifically to stay away from the school lobby. No one took him seriously. They thought at worst he would set off another stink bomb or a cherry bomb. Students reported that Carneal had made empty threats and issued warnings many times before.
After school on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Carneal went to a friend’s house, and they used the pistol for target practice on a rubber ball. On Thanksgiving Day, Carneal and his family, including both sets of grandparents, shared dinner in the early afternoon. Carneal then went outside to rake leaves and later rode his bicycle to the house of the friend from whose father he had stolen the pistol. After a brief conversation with Carneal, the friend went next door to a relative’s house to eat Thanksgiving dinner with his family. Carneal took this opportunity to climb into the garage through an open window, found the hidden key to the gun case, and stole a 30-30 rifle and four .22 rifles. He also stole earplugs and many boxes of shotgun shells and .22 ammunition. He carried the weapons home in a duffle bag on his bicycle, which he left outside under his bedroom window and came into the house. He went into his bedroom, locked the door, opened the window, retrieved the duffle bag, wrapped