The father of a seventh-grader who stormed into his Prince William County middle school with a high-powered rifle and threatened to shoot people said yesterday that his son was the target of incessant bullying and that school officials did not do enough to stop the problem.
"My son was tormented," said David Lewis of Haymarket, whose son is 13 years old. ". . .Although his actions were not justified . . . bullying should not be tolerated."
Lewis, 40, spoke publicly for the first time after a closed hearing in Prince William Juvenile and Domestic Relations court, where a judge ordered his son to undergo a psychological exam, according to prosecutors. At the boy's next hearing on Nov. 24, Judge Janice Brice could release him, send him to a juvenile home or continue to hold him in a state detention facility up to age 21, they said.
If Brice sends the boy to a state detention facility, Department of Juvenile Justice officials will determine when he is released, said Prince William Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Claiborne T. Richardson II.
Last month, the seventh-grader pleaded guilty in juvenile court to three felony weapon and abduction charges stemming from the siege at Bull Run Middle School on June 18, the last day of classes.
Flanked by his wife, Naomi, and their attorney outside the courtroom, David Lewis expressed regret for his son's actions, which have haunted the community.
"My wife and I want to apologize for the actions of our son," he said, adding his gratitude for the "measured response and skill" of the Prince William County Police Department. Lewis then criticized school officials, saying they had done little to combat bullying. "It's one thing to have a zero-tolerance policy, but it's another thing to see it actually enforced," he said.
Lewis said he and his wife tried to get their son, then 12, to tell them whether there were problems at school, "but he never came out and said 'Here's what's happening, here's who's doing what.' " Friends have said the boy was bullied because of his clothing and his size.
Bull Run Principal William G. Bixby said yesterday that it was not appropriate for him to comment about the boy's problems in the media. Bixby said the school does take measures to stop bullying. "Any of us would be very pleased if [the boy] had spoken to us. . . . Students do need to bring information forward." After the hearing, Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said he thought the boy continues to pose a threat to the community and should be detained. He did not give his recommendation for how long.
"It's a very unusual case," Ebert said. "You have a boy with no criminal record, with support from home, church. . . . He had an better-than-average intelligence, but his thought process concerns me.
"Anyone that would take a loaded weapon and abduct someone . . . is a risk to society," he said.
On June 18, Naomi Lewis, a cafeteria worker, was driving her son to school when she heard a rattling in the back of her van and discovered a bag of weapons. Lewis, 39, left them locked inside without alerting authorities. She has been charged with possession of firearms on school property and faces an Oct. 6 trial. She declined to discuss her case yesterday. As students began arriving for school that day, her son sneaked back to the van and opened it with a key his mother didn't know he had, police said. He took the bag of weapons -- three guns, a knife, flammable liquid and more than 100 rounds of ammunition -- to a bathroom next to the school's office, changed into camouflage gear and cloaked his face in a red bandanna. An assistant principal conducting a routine check heard him loading a rifle and rushed into the school office to call for help.
The boy burst into the office, ordered about a dozen people to "get down" and pointed his weapon at a woman hiding under a desk as she tried to call police. He eventually was talked out of using weapon by a teacher and apprehended by a police. School Board Chairwoman Lucy S. Beauchamp (At Large), said her "heart goes out to the family," but said the school "can't deal with bullying unless we know it's happening."