. "2. The Copycat Factor: Mental Illness, Guns, and the Shooting Incident at Heritage High School, Rockdale County, Georgia." Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2003.
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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
This case study examines in more detail this community, school, family, and individual in order to trace the antecedents and consequences of the May 20, 1999, incident. As we show, there were antecedent conditions that can be connected, at least in retrospect, to the eventual occurrence of the incident.
The authors of this case study gathered data during two field visits to Rockdale County over the course of one month, some subsidiary field trips to interview knowledgeable people not present in Rockdale County at the time, many telephone calls, and through collecting a large body of archival material. All interviews were conducted according to procedures for the protection of human subjects approved by Rutgers University and the National Academy of Sciences. Some subjects with uniquely identifiable roles in the event agreed to be interviewed for public attribution, but most subjects spoke under pledges of confidentiality.
Data collection yielded an extensive and diverse record. A total of 42 people participated in interviews, including law enforcement, local government, and school officials; some of the victims and their parents; journalists who had worked in the community; and community members, including adult residents and also young people, a number of whom had known T.J. Solomon and his family. Interviews were also conducted with people who had known T.J. and his family before they moved to Rockdale County.
Besides the interview data, researchers also had access to an extensive archival record. Census data, Chamber of Commerce reports, and school, police, and health records provided background data on the area. Newspaper and other media accounts provided initial glimpses of the incident and those involved, although many of the facts in the early accounts proved to be erroneous.
More directly relevant to the main concerns of the case study, however, were the extensive files provided by law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office of Rockdale County, which had direct jurisdiction over the case. Since T.J. Solomon was eventually transferred out of juvenile court and convicted as an adult in superior court, all of these records are publicly available under Georgia law. They include several hours of videotapes of the young offender, both immediately following the incident and from a psychological interview conducted three months later, investigative reports, psychological assessments, evidence inventories, crime scene photographs, depositions with family members during subsequent civil lawsuits, and voluminous miscellaneous supporting materials. The investigative reports alone pro