who “just didn’t seem to care about much after the shooting” or “seemed to live for the moment.”
In addition to the direct physical, psychological, and emotional impacts sustained by the victims of the Heritage High shooting, some families also felt additionally victimized by the mass media. They felt used by reporters and felt that their privacy had been invaded in unethical ways.
In spite of these difficulties, however, for the most part all of the victims of the Heritage High School shooting have moved on with their lives, following the same succession of life course events that many others not affected by the shooting have pursued. At the time of our fieldwork, some had gone off to college while others were still at Heritage.
One victim has had some difficulty adjusting, having initially gone to college, only to drop out after a year and a half. After experimentation with drug use and a carefree lifestyle, he now holds two jobs and is considering going back to school. These difficulties may have been related to his victimization.
Throughout the judicial proceedings, all of the victims had at least access to an active role and were given the opportunity to voice their opinions. In the time prior to hearings, prosecutors met with most of the victims concerning their views of what punishment T.J. should be given. Two of the victims testified in the juvenile court transfer hearing and others provided testimony in the sentencing phase.
Victims and their families differed considerably in their attitudes toward T.J. According to one recollection, three of the victims wanted the longest possible sentence to be handed down in response to T.J.’s actions. In the words of one, “No, I don’t forgive him and I don’t like him. Him doing the shooting makes him less of a person. The DA asked the victims what we wanted the sentence to be and I told him ‘I want him to be in jail as long as he possibly can be.’ … You see things differently when it happens to you.”
Conversely, two other victims expressed attitudes of forgiveness and concern over T.J.’s fate. Another wanted T.J. to be assigned to some type of service so as to give something back to the community.
A family member of one of the victims’ felt that T.J.’s incarceration is the appropriate recourse and believes that T.J. exhibited signs of trouble that should have been picked up on by parents and school officials. “He robbed a lot of people of a lot of things…. I don’t have any anger against him; he’s just a mental case.”
Three of the six injured victims filed civil suits against T.J. and his family. One was settled. Two were still pending.
While no one died, T.J.’s bullets impacted the lives of the victims and family members in multifaceted ways. Victims were clearly affected physically, psychologically, attitudinally, and within their interpersonal relations.