SPOKANE, Wash. – Newly filed court documents reveal more about what investigators found at Freeman High School and at the home of Caleb Sharpe, the suspected Freeman High School shooter.
In an interview with detectives, the suspect said he was bullied and came to school to teach everyone a lesson about what happens when you bully others. However, the suspect said he was not targeting anyone specifically in the shooting, according to court documents.
Evidence collected at the suspect’s home though calls that into question. Detectives found a yearbook in a dresser drawer at the home with faces crossed out with an “X.” According to the property log, “X = Kill.”
Documents show detectives also collected a notebook with a manifesto and list of his father’s ammunition. Detectives also found a practice Molotov cocktail and a notebook with a list of chemicals in it, according to the property log.
The search warrant also shows detectives collected several other items from the home including firearms, bullets, a gun holster, several electronics, a sketch book, and handwritten notes.
Timeline of Events
According to court documents and witness accounts, the shooting at Freeman High School happened in a span of five minutes. Reports of the first shots fired came in at 10:08 a.m., Wednesday September 13. By 10:13 a.m., the shooting suspect was detained by school staff.
10:08 a.m. – Police and fire are notified of a school shooting at Freeman High School
10:13 a.m. – Reports indicated the shooting suspect was detained by school staff
But, what happened in those five minutes forever changed Freeman High School and the community.
The morning of September 13, a bus driver said she picked up the suspect at his regular bus stop near his home. Documents said she saw him get on the bus carrying a large athletic style duffel bag. The bus driver later told detectives she thought it was suspicious since the suspect does not play sports, but did not report it prior to the shooting.
The suspect told detectives he had an AR-15 in the duffel bag and hid a handgun inside his coat pocket.
When he got to school, the suspect said he walked inside from a back side entrance and immediately walked up the stairs to the second floor hallway. When he got upstairs, surveillance video showed he dropped the duffel bag, removed the AR-15, and tried to load rounds into it. The gun immediately jammed though, according to documents, and he struggled to load it. Documents said several students witnessed this, and according to the suspect, he was told he would get into trouble for this.
After the rifle jammed, documents said the suspect dropped it and pulled the handgun out from under his coat. Another student, Samuel Strahan, came up to him and according to documents said, "I always knew you were going to shoot up the school" and "you know that is going to get you in trouble."
The suspect then started shooting, killing Strahan and injuring three other students: Emma Nees, Jordyn Goldsmith, and Gracie Jensen.
Documents said the suspect continued firing until the pistol jammed. While trying to unjam the pistol, documents said the suspect accidentally fired another round, which struck the floor nearby.
According to the search warrant, one girl, who was shot in the arm, was pulled out of the hallway and into a chemistry room where people tried to help her. Another student told KREM 2 she laid down in the hallway next to another girl who was shot and held her hand and prayed with her.
Freeman High School teacher John Hays saw the suspect walk past his classroom carrying a handgun after hearing numerous gun shots immediately outside his classroom along the long hallway. Documents said Hays walked out of his classroom and saw the suspect had dropped his gun. Hays told detectives the suspect was raising his hands above his head, surrendering to Joe Bowen, a custodian at the high school, who was approaching him. Bowen ordered the suspect to lie down on the floor.
Documents said Hays immediately saw an assault style rifle on the floor near his classroom door, so he picked it up and took it into his classroom to keep it out of reach. Bowen held the suspect down until Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Nye, Freeman’s school resource officer, arrived and took him into custody. Deputy Nye was at the middle school nearby when shots were fired, according to the sheriff’s office.
When detectives arrived at Freeman High School, they reported seeing numerous fired cartridge cases scattered on the floor along the majority of the second floor hallway. Detectives also said the hallway was covered in a trail of an unknown white powder. A large black sports style duffel bag with numerous boxes of rifle ammunition in it was found at the far end of the hallway, according to documents.
Suspect’s Behavior Before the Shooting
The suspect was in the care of a school counselor and mental health professional for suicidal thoughts, which prompted his temporary suspension, according to documents.
A friend of the suspect said he handed out threatening notes the first or second day of school this year. Students said the notes said he was going to do something stupid to where either he gets killed or put in jail.
Other students said the suspect was active on social media and that they knew he liked to play with guns. KREM 2 found several videos the suspect posted on YouTube where he repeatedly pretends to be shot and pretends to shoot others.
Court documents said the suspect’s mother found a suicide note in their home that was written more than a week ago. When Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich was asked to clarify the timeline of when the note was found, he said that was unclear.
The suspect also told detectives he knew combination to his father’s large gun safe in their home and that he is familiar with the operation of firearms. The suspect’s father confirmed with detectives his son knew the combination to the gun safe.
A friend of the suspect also told detectives the suspect makes improvised explosive devices at home.
During a search of the home, court documents said detectives found a list of chemicals and a practice Molotov cocktail.
The suspect is currently charged as a juvenile. He is facing one count first degree murder and three counts attempted first degree murder.
Sheriff Knezovich said they intend to charge him as an adult. A hearing will need to take place before that decision can be made.
The suspect is expected to appear in court on September 26.
Statement from Shooting Victim’s Family
A family member of Sam Strahan, the student who died in the Freeman High School shooting, released a statement Friday. Anna Strahan wrote a statement on her Facebook page about her cousin’s death.
She started the statement by honoring her cousin, “In the face of tragedy, Samuel David Strahan ran toward the shooter instead of away… He died in a moment of bravery and selflessness.”
Strahan then called her cousin a hero for his action during the terrifying event. She went on to say how Sam was a beloved member of their family as well as the Freeman community. She continued by saying his death is “bigger than a mental health or bullying issue… This incident was preventable.”
You can read Anna Strahan’s full statement below:
“In the face of tragedy, Samuel David Strahan ran toward the shooter instead of away. He died in a moment of bravery and selflessness. Sam is my hero.
Sam had a great sense of humor, loved his cat Bella dearly, and enjoyed playing video games. When I was visiting over the summer, he was excited to tell me how great he was at playing Minecraft. I would hear him downstairs laughing with his friends on Xbox live. It made me smile hearing him joke around with friends despite the tragedy of his father’s recent passing on Father’s Day. It wasn't supposed to end like this. When I was in Washington last month I tried to connect with him but being a grief-stricken teen that liked being left alone to play video games we didn't spend as much time together as I hoped. I understood that this was a phase and was excited for us to be close in a few years, when he felt like letting me in. We have great memories together. I remember him being the exciting new baby in the family. Sam was always excited to participate in my whimsical camps and games. He excelled at chess and became our grandfather’s frequent rival. His life was cut too short. I hoped we would grow old together, keeping family traditions alive and marking milestones together.
Sam was a beloved member of our family and community. He was an active member of the community, volunteering at Generation Alive and serving as a member of the Boy Scouts of America where his father was the troop leader.
Every child should return home from school at the end of the day. School shootings should not be the norm. They should not happen — period. The cause of Sam's death is bigger than a mental health or bullying issue. We need to stop blaming bullying or "violent video games". The reality is that kids being bullied have access to unsecured firearms and in return are committing devastating acts due to their untreated mental health issues. This incident was preventable. Sam is gone because another teen with mental health issues had the tools to carry out this horrific event.
We need to take the warning signs of potential shooters seriously. When a child is bullied or suicidal they should not have easy access to lethal weapons. How many more Sam’s have to be sacrificed before we can finally have a serious conversation about gun control? It's time to stop wringing our hands and start coming to terms with the reality that our lack of gun control in this country is failing our children. A school should be a safe place — not a battleground statistic for a war we continue to lose through our collective complacency.”
Statement from the Suspect’s Family
Through the suspect’s attorney, Bevan Maxey, the family released a statement saying, “The Sharpe family wishes to offer their deepest condolences and sympathies to the entire Freeman Community. Especially the families of Sam Strahan, Emma Nees, Jordyn Goldsmith, and Gracie Jensen. Their hearts and prayers go out to them in this devastating time and they too as a family are devastated of course by the events that transpired on September 13th, at Freeman High School. The family asks the entire community to join them in praying for and continuing to pray for all of the children and the families that were involved in this incident. The family also asks the media for privacy and respect for all the parties involved, as they and everyone else deal with their grief.”