SEATTLE – A teacher who grabbed and held down a student who had just fired two gunshots at his school says his first thought was getting the gun away, and his second thought was for the shooter’s well-being.
“I had a conversation with him while I was lying on top of him. I told him we were going to get him some help,” government and civics teacher Brady Olson told a news conference Tuesday.
Olson’s quick action might also have spared the student as a school police officer said he was close to taking a shot at him.
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Bail was set at $500,000 for the 16-year-old being held in Thurston County in connection with Monday’s shooting at a high school in Lacey, Washington, about 60 miles southwest of Seattle.
Juvenile Court Commissioner Lynn Hayes found probable cause for five proposed charges of theft of a firearm, felony harassment, possession of a dangerous weapon on school grounds, unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful discharge of a firearm, the Olympian newspaper reported. She authorized a 72-hour mental health hold, during which the boy will undergo a mental health evaluation.
The boy stole a .357 Magnum pistol from his father and brought it to school in a duffel bag, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Graham said. The gun was loaded with hollow-point bullets.
The boy, a recent transfer to the school, reportedly told detectives that he didn’t intend to hurt any other students.
At the news conference, Olson said he had never seen the student before he heard a gun fired Monday morning in the high school commons and looked up to see the armed student walking down stairs into the area where students had gathered before classes began for the day.
Olson and several other school staff members, including the principal, raced toward the student after seeing the gun.
“I saw kids fleeing. It kind of fired me up to do something, and I did it,” he said. “Rather than tackle him, I kind of enveloped him.”
The school resource officer, Lacey police Officer Ed McClanahan, told KCPQ-TV that Olson grabbed the student just before he figured he would have had a clear shot at him.
The officer had initially decided not to shoot because nearly a dozen students were in the line of fire behind the gunman.
McClanahan said he was one step away from having a clear shot when Olson intervened. The officer said there’s no question he would have pulled the trigger.
Olson “not only tackled him, but grabbed onto his right arm and he held it out – it was pretty impressive,” McClanahan said. That allowed the officer to grab the gun. Then the teen turned to the officer with a question.
“He asked why I didn’t shoot him,” McClanahan said.
“I told him life is full of second chances, hopefully (you) get that help that you need and life becomes better for you in the future,” the officer said.
Olson said he got there first because his legs were longer, but he maintains any of his colleagues would have done the exact same thing. He joked that maybe he should be portrayed as the dumb guy who didn’t run away.
“I’m kind of a protective person. I was thinking about protecting my kids,” he said. Although his daughter is a freshman at the school, he clarified that he wasn’t thinking about his own family, but his students.
Olson has received e-mails from around the country commending him as a hero, but he said he just acted on instinct. Real heroes are people like his best friend who serves in the military and protects people every day, over and over again, he said.
A tall, broad-shouldered man wearing a purple school cap and jacket, Olson described himself as a history and war buff and said he easily recognized the kind of gun the student was carrying. He served several years in the military to earn money for college.
Olson said he has discussed active-shooter incidents with his wife and family and said he wouldn’t know how he would react until he was there.
But his wife, an elementary school teacher, countered that assertion when she spoke at the news conference. “He said, ‘If I’m close, I’m going for it,’ ” said Shara Olson. “I just couldn’t be more proud.”
Her husband commended his community and his fellow educators, saying his school was filled with awesome teachers whose No. 1 concern is their students.
“I’m glad it turned out really, really well for everyone involved. Hopefully, we can learn some things from it and move forward,” Olson said.