A headline Oct. 3 about a classmate who had heard a boy discuss his plan to take over Bull Run Middle School and get revenge on bullies could have made it clearer that the classmate did not take the plan seriously. (Published 10/704)
Karen Kuzniczci says that her son knows firsthand about the bullying that prompted his classmate to storm into Bull Run Middle School on June 18 with a high-powered rifle and threaten to shoot people.
One day in the spring, her son saw someone throw a fruitcake at the boy during lunch, Kuzniczci said. Then, about a week before the end of school, the bullied boy was sitting with Kuzniczci's son and three other schoolmates when he suggested a scheme to get revenge on everyone who picked on him, Kuzniczci said.
The boy, a seventh-grader, said he wanted to take over the school on the last day of classes, hold hostages and demand a helicopter to escape to another country, Kuzniczci said her son testified last week in Prince William County Court Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
The boy, who was 12, asked whether anyone wanted to help him, but the others turned him down, Kuzniczci said her son told her. They thought it was all talk, said Kuzniczci, who did not want her son named.
Kuzniczci's son, two classmates and the gunman's church minister testified as character witnesses during a four-hour closed court hearing last week. The Washington Post does not identify by name juveniles charged with crimes unless they are being prosecuted as adults.
Judge Janice Brice committed the boy, now 13, to a state detention facility for an indefinite amount of time, possibly until he is 21. She also ordered him to undergo a psychological evaluation. At a Nov. 24 hearing, she could amend the sentence based on the exam. On that day, the judge could release him, send him to a juvenile home or continue to hold him in a state facility. If he goes to a state facility Nov. 24, Department of Juvenile Justice officials will determine when he gets released.
After last week's hearing, the boy's father and mother, David and Naomi Lewis of Haymarket, said that their son was constantly teased and that the school did not take enough measures to stop the bullying. David Lewis said he wanted his son "sent home today."
In August, their son pleaded guilty to three felony weapon and abduction charges.
Kuzniczci and Rebecca Bare, whose children testified at the sentencing hearing, said their boys told the court Wednesday that the Lewises' son is fit to return to society and school. Kuzniczci said her son testified that classmates thought the bullied boy was simply "venting" when he discussed plans to seize the school and demand a helicopter.
Kuzniczci said she began to panic when her son was testifying Wednesday because Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert began cross-examining him aggressively.
"Ebert said, 'So you guys were planning this beforehand? You knew he had access to guns?' My son said no," Kuzniczci said. Ebert "was really intimidating, and that's when the defense attorney stood up and said, 'This is a sentencing hearing; my client's already pleaded.' "
Ebert could not be reached for comment. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Claiborne T. Richardson II said he could not discuss the court proceedings because the defendant is younger than 14.
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 trial Wednesday.
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 ran into the office, ordered a dozen people "to get down" and threatened to shoot people. He was eventually talked out of using his weapon by a teacher and arrested by Prince William County police.
Bare said the boy's apology during the court hearing was very moving because he kept saying "what a horrible mistake" he made and how "he would really like the chance to go home so he could prove he would be a good member of the community."
Bare, who has known the Lewis family for a few years and lives in their same neighborhood, said the boy was very remorseful.
"He said he would accept any punishment. I am a fairly hard person, and I cried listening to him talk," she said. "It made him look like such a little boy, trying to express how sorry he was."