High School shooting was a school shooting that occurred in
Cold Spring, Minnesota on September 24, 2003. The shooting was
perpetrated by then 15-year-old Jason McLaughlin who murdered
classmates Seth Bartell, 15, and Aaron Rollins, 17.
On the day of
the shooting, McLaughlin brought a loaded .22-caliber pistol to
school with the intention of harming Bartell. He confronted
Bartell in a basement hallway and fired two shots. The first
shot wounded Bartell superficially in the chest while the second
shot missed and hit Rollins in the neck. McLaughlin pursued
Bartell as he fled into the gym and shot him in the forehead.
At that point,
physical education teacher Mark Johnson claims that McLaughlin
aimed the gun at him. Johnson said he approached McLaughlin,
raised his hand and shouted "No," and that McLaughlin then
removed the bullets from the weapon and dropped it. Johnson then
secured the gun and escorted the boy to the school office.
on the day of the shooting while Bartell died sixteen days
At his murder
trial, it was claimed that McLaughlin had intended only to wound
Bartell, who he thought had been teasing him, by shooting
Bartell in the shoulder. Rollins was supposedly not his intended
target. McLaughlin was nonetheless found guilty of first and
second-degree murder. In August 2005, he was sentenced to life
McLaughlin is currently incarcerated at a state prison in St.
Cloud, Minnesota. He will not be eligible for parole for over 30
McLaughlin gets consecutive sentences in Rocori shootings
August 30, 2005
A judge has sentenced Jason McLaughlin to
life in prison for a deadly 2003 school shooting in Cold Spring.
The 17-year old McLaughlin faces two consecutive prison sentences
for first- and second-degree murder. He won't be eligible for
parole for more almost 40 years, when he's in his mid-50s. The
sentencing hearing turned into an emotional affair, with testimony
coming from family members of the victims and also from Jason
St. Cloud, Minn. — In a
packed St. Cloud courtroom, Judge Michael Kirk asked Jason
McLaughlin if he had anything to say before he was sentenced. The
teenager answered with a meek "no."
Judge Kirk then told Jason he
devastated the families of Seth Bartell and Aaron Rollins. This
summer McLaughlin was found guilty of murdering two Rocori High
School students. Kirk also told McLaughlin he'd destroyed his own
future, and damaged his community's sense of safety.
McLaughlin to life in prison for first-degree murder and a another
12 years in prison for second-degree murder. With the nearly two
years he's already been in custody, and time off for good behavior,
the teenager won't be eligible for parole until he's over 50 years
After the sentencing, Rolly
Bartell, the father of shooting victim Seth Bartell, said he was
pleased with the sentence. But Bartell said it still doesn't heal
the pain of the school shooting.
"The boys will always be gone.
The only thing that would actually cure it would be to turn back
time, but that won't happen," he said.
During the sentencing family
members of the two shooting victims had a chance to read victim
impact statements. Kim Bartell, the mother of Seth Bartell, said
she thinks of her son when she goes to bed at night, and wakes up
mother, Sherri, said her heart was broken when her son was
murdered. And her husband, Tom Rollins, said the murder has taken
a terrible toll on his family. He described his son as a boy who
lived life to the fullest. Rollins and the other family members
all asked Judge Kirk to give McLaughlin the maximum sentence
Outside the courthouse, Tom
Rollins said he hoped the statements made an impression on the
"I hope that it did. I think
he's a pretty thorough judge and I think he had his mind made up
before he came here today," Rollins said.
Jason McLaughlin's mother
also took the witness stand during the sentencing hearing. She
cried as she read an apology to the victim's families. Then she
went on to say the shooting happened in part because her son was
teased at Rocori High School. She also said he's suffering from a
mental illness that won't get treated in prison.
During McLaughlin's criminal
trial, the judge rejected Jason's mental illness defense.
Prosecutors also claimed the shooting happened because Jason was
jealous of Seth, not because Jason was teased.
Jason McLaughlin is now
incarcerated at a state prison in St. Cloud. The judge said he may
be moved to another facility, possible even out of state, at a
views McLaughlin video statement
July 12, 2005
Ninety minutes after the September 2003
school shooting at Rocori High School, Jason McLaughlin spoke with
investigators. Prosecutor attorneys played a video of that
conversation as his murder trial continued in St. Cloud Monday.
Both sides say the statement is a key piece in the case.
St. Cloud, Minn. — At the
beginning of the video, Jason McLaughlin sits alone in a tiny room.
McLaughlin fidgets in his
chair, looking uncomfortable, his hands are in cuffs behind his
back. He mutters to himself occasionally, saying he's thirsty.
Several times he puts his head down on a table.
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal
Apprehension Agent Ken McDonald comes into the room. After asking
a deputy to take off McLaughlin's cuffs, McDonald sits down across
the table from the teen.
The only thing McDonald
supposedly knows is that there was a shooting at Rocori High
School that day. He asks Jason if he did it, and the teenager
McLaughlin tells agent
McDonald he smuggled a gun to school that morning, in a gym bag.
"What was your plan?"
"I was going to shoot some
people," McLaughlin replies.
"You were going to shoot some
"They were teasing me all the
McLaughlin goes on to say
that Seth Bartell, a fellow freshman, had been picking on him for
two or three years . During testimony, several Rocori students
have said that Bartell may have teased McLaughlin occasionally,
but claim it was nothing serious.
McLaughlin says he wanted to
hurt Seth Bartell, for making fun of his acne.
"How were they teasing you?"
"Basically about my zits."
"About your zits? What was
"I just wanted to hurt them."
"Did you want to kill them?"
the investigator asks. "I don't know if they're dead or not to
tell you the truth, but that wasn't your intention?"
"No," McLaughlin says
McLaughlin is fairly calm at
this point. He explains to McDonald that he shot Bartell in the
back in the school basement, then followed him up some stairs to a
gym, and shot him a second time in the shoulder.
That second bullet actually
hit Seth Bartell in the head. He died two weeks later.
Aaron Rollins was killed in
the basement. The defense claims he was killed by a stray bullet
meant for Bartell.
Agent McDonald leaves the
room to get more information from other investigators about what
happened at Rocori, and returns to tell McLaughlin what he's found
McLaughlin slams his fist on
the table, hits his head on a nearby wall, and then breaks down
McLaughlin acts bewildered at
the news. He says he's never heard of someone called Aaron Rollins.
McDonald goes over the
question again of what he'd planned that day.
"Did you have intentions of
"Did you plan to kill anybody?"
"You planned to hurt somebody?"
"Just hurt them," McLaughlin
The prosecution says this
video shows that Jason McLaughlin knew what he was doing that day.
And that since he shot Seth Bartell in the head, he meant to kill
him, not just wound him.
McLaughlin's attorney says
the tape proves McLaughlin never meant to kill anyone, and the
killing of both students was a mistake. McLaughlin's attorney says
he also plans a mental health defense in the case, claiming an
emerging mental illness clouded his client's judgement that day.
Also on Monday, McLaughlin's
father took the witness stand. David McLaughlin, who described his
relationship with his son as close, is a sargent with the Stearns
County Sheriff's Department.
He testified he'd taken his
son to several shooting ranges over the years. And he said he had
20 guns in his home, one of those guns is the one Jason McLaughlin
is accused of using in the school shooting. David McLaughlin said
when he found out his son was playing violent first-person shooter
video games, he told Jason to get rid of them.
The state is expected to rest
it's case today. A verdict could come from Judge Michael Kirk in
coming days. That will bring an end to the first phase of the
trial. The second phase, which starts July 18th, will examine
Jason McLaughlin's mental state at the time of the shooting.
boys shot at central Minnesota high school, one dies; suspect in
Churches in the central Minnesota town of
Cold Spring held special services last night to mark the end of a
tragic day. A 15-year-old boy shot two of his classmates at Rocori
High School around noon. One of the students died, another is in
critical condition. Students and teachers in Cold Spring now begin
the work of trying to recover.
Cold Spring, Minn. — About an
hour after Wednesday's shooting in Cold Spring, students wandered
out of school still trying to figure out what had happened.
Senior Matt Hesse says around
lunchtime students were told there was a shooting and they should
stay in their rooms.
"We had to go up against the
wall and stay away from all the windows and doors and we were just
shocked," he said. "People kind of started crying a little bit,
and they were just really, really worried. Is this a drill? What's
going on? And I asked my teacher if he says code red, is that a
drill? He said, 'No, that's the real deal.' We were just, like, 'Oh
wow, what's going on?'"
Aaron Rollins was a senior
who enjoyed the outdoors. He was gregarious, athletic and often
had a pleasant word for passing teachers or classmates. He worked
at the local Subway sandwich shop.
Seth Bartell was a freshman
who liked to skateboard and snowboard, quiet but a good kid
according to those who knew him.
About the only thing Rollins
and Bartell had in common was that they were in the wrong place at
the wrong time at Rocori High School on Wednesday.
Officials and teachers said
there was no indication that they and John Jason McLaughlin, the
15-year-old suspected of shooting them, were any more than passing
Rollins was walking with
other members of a senior physical education class on their way to
the gym to play badminton. Bartell was with a freshman class
already in the gym.
Rollins was shot in neck
while in the locker room. He died a short time later.
Bartell was shot in the
gymnasium. He was clinging to life at St. Cloud Hospital after
several hours of surgery. Officials said he was shot in the head
and chest. A bullet passed through the front of his brain.
Rocori Superintendent Scott
Staska said McLaughlin did have some disciplinary problems at
school, but nothing that made teachers think something was about
Greg Roth, a senior, saw
Rollins just before Rollins left for his gym class. "I wish I'd
known what would happen. I would've told him I love him or
something," Roth said. "He's one of those guys who always had a
smile on his face. If something was going wrong, he was the first
guy who'd talk to you or ask you what he could do to help you."
"Aaron was a
very outgoing kid; always had a smile on his face, always had a
comment for you," said Brian Athman, who teaches health and phy-ed.
Rollins has a twin brother,
Adam, Athman said. "Anywhere you saw one of them, you saw both of
them," Athman said. They went to basketball camp. Baseball and
football were big with them, but boating, hunting and fishing on
Big Lake in Richmond were their passions.
"He always made something out
to be funny," said Justin Hansen, 18, a senior who said he spoke
with Rollins Wednesday morning before the shooting.
"I just talked to him this
morning about snowmobiling in Michigan," Hansen said. The trip had
become tradition for Rollins and his group of friends - this
winter's trip would have marked the third consecutive time the
friends would head for Michigan's Upper Peninsula to snowmobile.
Hansen said Rollins was so excited about the trip he was making
plans for the group to go twice before their senior year ended.
Amanda Theel, 17, a senior,
recalled taking a two-week trip with Rollins to the Boundary
Waters area the summer after seventh grade. She remembered him
looking after her and being protective on the trip.
"He taught me how to fish,"
Theel said. "He was a great guy."
Chris Butala, 17, said he and
Rollins met each other 30 minutes before the shooting.
"We were talking in the
hallway, joking," Butala said. "I feel terrible right now. I can't
even explain it, it's the worst feeling in the world. I just lost
one of my best friends. I am never going to see him again."
Kati Brink taught both
victims when they were eighth-graders.
Rollins, she said, "would be
the one I could count on to get the soccer balls out for me. He
was a helping hand, and he was always there."
Bartell, she said, was also a
well-liked boy who had many friends. He was just more quiet, a
little more reserved.
His friends said he had a
passion for sports such as skateboarding at the skate park in town,
snowboarding at Powder Ridge Ski Area in Kimball and BMX biking.
"He's basically good at every
extreme sport. He's just built for it," said Jared Nordstrom, a
The alleged shooter
Neighbors who knew John Jason
McLaughlin said the 15-year-old seemed like a decent kid. He did
yard work for his parents without complaint and liked hanging out
and playing video games.
WCCO-TV reported that the
suspect sent a short e-mail to a classmate before the shootings.
It didn't specify what he planned, but he asked her not to tell
anyone and it closed by saying, "So I guess this is goodbye my
love." The station said it was withholding her identity at the
request of her parents and authorities.
"He just seemed really
normal," Brianna Sullivan told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.
Sullivan, an eighth-grader who grew up across the street from the
McLaughlin family, said she chatted with him by phone almost daily.
But lately, those who know
McLaughlin said, he began to change. He seemed more withdrawn and
didn't want to come out to play. Some described him as intensely
shy and self-conscious about his severe acne.
"It really was this summer
that things seemed different," Jess Phillips, 12, who lives about
a block away, told the Star Tribune.
Neil Wackwitz, 15, who was
perhaps his closest friend in the neighborhood, also told the
newspaper said McLaughlin seemed to withdraw this summer.
Sullivan said she noticed
lately that he didn't seem to have many other friends. She
wondered whether his small size or his acne played a role.
"Kids would tease him about
that," she said.
Wackwitz said he and
McLaughlin used to play video or computer games or hang out. But
lately, McLaughlin usually said he didn't want to. He also started
walking home after school instead of riding the bus.
Wackwitz said he felt bad but
didn't think anything was seriously wrong. He said McLaughlin
never mentioned that anything or anyone was bugging him. In
particular, he said, McLaughlin never complained to him that kids
at school were picking on him.
Sullivan said that McLaughlin
had mentioned to her that people were picking on him but that he
didn't seem too concerned about it.
But she said there were signs
that something was amiss. During one of their long chats, she
recalled, McLaughlin told her that he was being tested this summer
for a split-personality disorder. She said he never mentioned it
Teacher Pete Spengler, who
had McLaughlin in his science class at Rocori Middle School, told
the Star Tribune that he never would have thought the youngster
would be involved in something like this.
"When I look back, in my
mind's eye, I see an ordinary kid - always smiling, always happy,
always playing around," he said. "In class, he always had a lab
partner. He never had a problem matching up with someone."
While many students didn't
even know him as of Wednesday morning, everyone was talking about
McLaughlin by afternoon
"He kept to himself in class,"
freshman Kelsey Lintgen told the St. Cloud Times.
"He never talked," freshman
Shayna Wander told the newspaper. "It didn't seem like he was
"I never even heard of him
even though he grew up in Cold Spring," junior Katie Kremer said.
But after the shooting Kremer
noticed a photo of him in Tuesday's edition of the Cold Spring
Record. A picture of him as a toddler tipping out of his stroller
appeared at the bottom of the weekly newspaper's front page as
part of its "Way back when..." feature.
"It's an unbelievable
coincidence," said Mike Austreng, editor and publisher of the
Record. "That picture was picked on Friday ... from a file of
boxes strictly at random."
Austreng said the Record has
literally thousands of pictures to choose for the feature each
Whether the photo could have
prompted the shootings in any way crossed Austreng's mind, but he
said he quickly discarded the notion.
"The paper comes out Tuesday,
and most people read it at night," Austreng said. "There's no way
that from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning this could have
played a role."
Prepared the worst
Staska says the school was prepared for such an emergency as what
unfolded on Wednesday. For they past three years Rocori has held
drills to deal with a shooting, the last one was a few weeks ago.
"Quite honestly when we ran
the practice drills a couple of weeks ago it didn't go as well as
we would like. So it gave us an opportunity to go through the
issues and remind everyone of the importance of it and
unfortunately we had to play it out today," he said.
commissioner says staff and students at Rocori handled the
situation well. Cheri Pierson Yecke says Minnesota schools are
required by law to have plans in place to deal with such an
"We know that 100 percent of
the school districts in this state submitted assurances that they
do have such plans in place, and I think that the quick action of
the school personnel and students at Rocori High School shows that
they have a plan, they were prepared to take action in a difficult
situation and they knew just what to do," she said.
Figuring out what to do next
is going to be the toughest part for teachers and students at
Rocori High School. Superintendent Scott Staska is encouraging
high school students to come back to school today. Staska says
they'll hold a two-hour couseling session for students and their
parents. He says they don't want students at home alone dealing
with the aftermath of the shooting.
"If we can bring them in have
them in a safe setting we believe we can talk through it, debrief
the situation, give them the support resources and then allow them
to deal with it at that point."
Staska expects that Rocori
will be back to a full day of classes by Friday.
Meanwhile the investigation
into the shooting will continue today. Officials from the Cold
Spring police, along with the Stearns County sheriff, the Bureau
of Criminal Apprehension the FBI and the ATF are all working on