Evan Ramsey recently did an
interview with Anderson Cooper titled "In The Mind of a Killer" in
which he blamed DOOM for his school shooting. His crime was also
profiled on the Court TV series Anatomy of a Crime.
Evan E. Ramsey (born February 8, 1981) was an
Alaskan high school student who perpetrated a school shooting at
Bethel Regional High School in Bethel, Alaska on
1997. During the shooting, two people were killed and two
others were wounded. Ramsey is currently serving two 99-year prison
sentences and will be eligible for parole in 2066.
When Evan Ramsey was five years old, his father was imprisoned after a
police-standoff, and his mother became an alcoholic. Evan and his
family shortly after were forced to relocate around the Anchorage area
after their house was set on fire. When Evan was seven, the Anchorage
Department of Youth and Family Services removed Evan and his two
brothers from his mother's custody and placed them in foster care.
Evan was soon separated from his older brother, John, and lived in
eleven foster homes between 1988 and 1991.
Ramsey and his younger
brother were allegedly abused by several foster parents. Evan's
younger brother, William, claimed that their foster brothers would pay
other children to beat Evan as a sick game.
Evan was adopted with his brother at age 10, and
settled in Bethel, Alaska with their foster mother. Evan Ramsey has
suffered from depression since early childhood, and had attempted
suicide when he was 10 years old.
Ramsey was believed to have been frequently bullied at school.
According to his friends, Ramsey complained of being harassed and
teased by other students, even to the extent of only addressing him as
"Screech", a character from the TV series Saved by the Bell.
Evan was not the first in his family to bring a firearm into a public
place. In October 1986, Evan's father Don Ramsey went to the
Anchorage Times newspaper office armed with an AR .180-223 rifle
and a .44 Magnum revolver, and over 210 rounds of ammunition. While
inside the building, Don Ramsey began taking hostages and was involved
in a brief standoff with police until he surrendered. His motive for
doing this was because he was angered that the Times refused to
publish a political letter he had written. He was sentenced to 10
years in prison, and was paroled less than two weeks before his son
Evan perpetrated the school shooting.
Reports say in
the two weeks prior to the incident, over 15 students knew of Ramsey's
intention to commit a school shooting, and two actually assisted him.
One student named James Randall, taught him how to use a shotgun, and
another named Matthew Charles told him of the infamy that would come.
Reports say that several students brought cameras to school on the day
of the shooting, and that many students were watching the shooting
from a library balcony overlooking the student commons area.
February 19, 1997,
Evan Ramsey armed himself with a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun provided to
him by friend James Randall, and arrived at Bethel Regional High
School by school bus. Ramsey approached the student commons area,
brandishing the shotgun, and shot 15-year-old Josh Palacios in the
abdomen, an immediate fatal wound. He had also shot and injured two
other students. Reyne Athanas, an art teacher, entered the student
commons area after hearing the gunshots. Athanas said she tried and
failed to convince Ramsey to surrender. He then entered the main
lobby, where he twice fatally shot principal Ron Edwards. Ramsey then
retreated to the student commons area, shooting once at police. Ramsey
later placed the shotgun barrel under his chin, and reportedly said,
"I don't want to die," and laid the shotgun on the ground and
surrendered without further incident.
Following his arrest, Ramsey claimed that he did not understand his
actions would kill anyone. His trial was delayed as prosecutors
discussed whether Ramsey should be tried as a juvenile or as an adult.
The decision came to that Ramsey would be tried as an adult, and that
his trial would be held in Anchorage. On December 2, 1998, Ramsey was
found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of
first-degree attempted murder, and fifteen counts of third-degree
assault. Judge Mark Isaac Wood sentenced him to 210 years in prison;
on appeal, however, his sentence was reduced to two 99-year prison
He is currently being imprisoned at the
Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, and will be eligible for
parole in 2066, when he will be 85 years old.
February 15, 2006
Ramsey did an interview with Anderson Cooper titled In the Mind of
a Killer, in which Ramsey blamed the video game Doom for
the shooting. His crime was also profiled on the Court TV series
Anatomy of a Crime.
Rage: A Look At A Teen Killer
Others Knew His Plans, Yet Didn't Tell
March 7, 2001
Parents, teachers and students are still piecing
together what happened Monday in a Santee, Calif., high school, when
15-year-old Andy Williams allegedly opened fire in the most devasting
school shooting since Littleton, Colo.
What drives teen-agers to kill? But other cases can
In 1997, when Evan Ramsey was 16, he walked into
his school in Bethel, Alaska, pulled out a .12 gauge shotgun and
murdered two people. 60 Minutes II Correspondent Carol Marin
spoke to Evan in an Alaska prison to hear his explanation of what
drives a teen-ager to kill.
Bethel is an isolated town of 5,000 on the Alaska
tundra. On Feb. 19, 1997, life there changed forever.
Reyne Athanas, a Bethel High art teacher, was in
the teacher's lounge when she heard a popping sound. She thought it
was firecrackers. So she walked down the hall, where she was met by a
stream of kids screaming, "He's got a gun; he's got a gun."
The boy with the gun was Evan Ramsey. He had
already shot his first victim, popular student and athlete Josh
Palacios, 15. Athanas went to where Josh lay dying. When she looked
up, Evan was pointing his .12 gauge shotgun directly at her.
She told him to put the gun down. He looked very
angry, out of control, she recalls.
Evan didn't shoot Athanas and left. But minutes
later, he returned and killed the principal, Ron Edwards.
Then Evan put the gun under his chin. But he never
fired the final shot. After a short standoff with police, he
surrendered and was convicted of murder and assault.
But the question remains: Why did Evan decide to
take a shotgun to school? "My main objective of going into the high
school was to check out," he says. "To commit suicide."
Up to that point, Evan had had a difficult life.
When he was 7, his father went to prison. His mother became an
alcoholic, and Evan and his brothers were shipped off to a series of
foster homes. In one of those homes, he suffered sexual abuse and
humiliation, according to court testimony.
Psychiatrist Dr. John Smith, who examined Evan a
few months after the murders, found that Evan had attempted suicide at
age 10. According to Dr. Smith, Evan was depressed from a young age.
By the time Evan was using marijuana, getting poor grades and
struggling to control an explosive temper.
And he spent hours every day playing Doom, the
violent video game said to be a source of fascination for Dylan
Klebold and Eric Harris, the two suspects in the Littleton, Colo.,
shooting - as well as for Michael Carneal, who opened fire in Paducah,
y. Andy Williams, the alleged gunman in the shootings at Santana High
School, appears to have been an avid player of violent video games as
Evan was an outsider, someone who didn't fit in
with the athletes and popular kids at school. But he did have friends,
like Tiffany Gwinn, who says he was depressed.
In Santee, California, classmates of Andy Williams
say he felt rejected by other students. They say he was often the
object of ridicule Evan says that no one - not teachers, friends nor
other students - understood the rejection he felt.
But Renee Erb, who prosecuted Evan, says that the
blame lies squarely on his shoulders and that he is a bad person. "There
are some people in this world that are no good. Nobody really knows
where they come from or why. But they've always been with us and it
may be that they always are," she says.
She points out that he planned the crime ahead of
But Evan did not plan his violence alone. He had
the help and encouragement of two 14-year-old boys; one helped him
learn to load and fire a .12 gauge shotgun and told him that fame and
fortune would follow.
The parallel to Santee, California, is striking.
Andy Williams apparently shared his plan with more than 20 other
students, and not one of them came forward to warn authorities. In
Bethel, Ala., the day of the shooting, a group of students gathered in
the second-floor library overlooking the lobby because they were told
by Evan and his accomplices that something big was going to happen. By
the time Evan, who had been up all night, arrived at school, there was
no way for him to back out, Dr. Smith says.
Erb thinks Evan wasn't trapped, but was driven by
his own desire for fame.
There is another theory for why Evan did what he
Evan calls it a family curse. His father, Don
Ramsey, became known as the Rambo of Alaska. In 1986, enraged when the
Anchorage Times refused to publish his political letter, Don
Ramsey showed up at the newspaper's office. He wanted to get his
"I was armed and ready to go to war," he
says. "I had a AR 180-223 semi-auto, something like 180 rounds of
ammo for it. A snub barrel .44 magnum and about 30 rounds for it."
Don Ramsey says he was ready to die, just as Evan
was. And just as Evan did, he surrendered after a short standoff with
police and went to prison. He accepts part of the responsibility for
what his son did.
Don Ramsey was released from prison in February
1997. Two weeks later his son brought a shotgun to Bethel High.
"The tragedy of everyone in Bethel, particularly
the young man and the principal who were killed and their families, is
that Evan was not recognized as needing as much help as he did,"
Dr. Smith said.
At Evan's sentencing, the judge called Anthanas a
hero who had tried to stop Evan three times during the incident. For
her, that is little comfort.
"I'm mad at Evan for putting me through this,
she says. "I'm mad at all those other boys and girls who didn't
come forward and say anything."
Athanas estimates that there were 10 to 15 kids in
the gallery. She thinks some knew there would be a gun involved and is
deeply disturbed no one came forward, she says.
"I'm mad at parents for not taking care of their
children so they ended up doing this," Athanas continues.
"I'm mad at teachers and society for not being
aware of the problems and dealing with it young," she adds.
"Kindergarten, first grade - that's when you need to do it. This
tragedy didn't have to occur. Those other ones didn't have to occur."
Prosecutors have said there are no simple answers
to yesterday's shooting; that it's complicated. They will charge Andy
Williams as an adult, which means he could spend the rest of his life
in prison. Evan Ramsey was sentenced to 200 years in prison and will
be eligible for parole when he's 75. In the end there was no lasting
fame for Evan Ramsey, but it was something that was still on his mind.
In the end Evan realizes he failed in his quest of
lasting fame, he says. "I'm dead to the world," he says. "If
a few months, nobody will really remember me. There will be other
people that will commit other offenses and I'll be considered
No way out
Consumed by hate, teen killed; now he says living
in prison is worse than living with his rage
By Jenifer Hanrahan - Signonsandiego.com
May 14, 2001
EWARD, Alaska -- Evan Ramsey will never get a phone
call, rent an apartment, go to work or take a vacation.
He will never drive a car, read a menu, get ready
for a party or take a girl on a date.
At age 20, the most Ramsey can hope for is that his
youth passes quickly, and his middle age, too, so that one morning he
wakes up an 85-year-old man.
"In 2066 I can go in front of the parole board,"
Two years before Columbine, four years before
Santana and Granite Hills, Ramsey pulled a shotgun out of his pants
and killed his principal and a classmate at his high school on the
Ramsey blamed bullies, lousy parents, a crummy
foster care system and teachers who didn' t listen for making him feel
shooting people was the way to solve his problems.
Now, from his cell in Alaska' s only maximum
security prison, he has a message for troubled teen-agers
contemplating the unthinkable.
"I would tell them the situation they' re in now is
not half as bad as the situation they' re going to be in if they do
something similar to what I did," Ramsey said. "It will only get worse."
Because in the wee hours of the night, when he can'
t sleep, a frightening thought often overcomes him, a fate so hopeless
he struggles to grasp that it' s his -- he will never, ever leave.
Ramsey' s murderous rampage -- soon eclipsed by
West Paducah, Ky., Pearl, Miss., and Jonesboro, Ark. -- came early in
a series of school shootings that made the nation shudder with sadness
In the desperate search for answers that follows
each tragedy, school districts establish anti-bullying programs and
zero-tolerance policies. Psychologists urge parents to monitor
children for signs of trouble. Criminologists peddle profiles of the
prototypical young killer.
Teaching parents to pay more attention and kids to
be kinder to each other can' t be a bad idea.
But none of it changes the dark truth of why Ramsey
took two lives and risked many more.
Ramsey killed because he wanted to.
"There were a couple of people I wanted to kill,"
he said. "At the time there was two people that I hated, hate as in
the way Hitler hated the Jews."
On the surface, Bethel, Ramsey' s hometown, and
Santee are about as different as two places can be.
Santee is part of Southern California' s
megalopolis of freeways, malls and suburban tracts.
Bethel cannot be reached by car. With 5,471
residents, it' s the regional hub for more than 50 tiny villages
across southwestern Alaska, an area so remote locals call it "the bush."
Both towns, however, had a teen-ager who decided to
take a gun to school one morning and shoot people.
Ramsey is one of the few school shooters who can
and will tell his own story. Columbine' s Dylan Klebold and Eric
Harris killed themselves. Defense lawyers instruct others, including
Santee' s Charles "Andy" Williams and Granite Hills' Jason Hoffman,
not to talk. Most of the rest are in prisons that do not permit
inmates to be interviewed by journalists.
Ramsey was 16 on Feb. 19, 1997, when he got off the
bus at Bethel Regional High School, walked into the school lobby and
killed student Josh Palacios.
Ramsey then shot school principal Ron Edwards, a
50-year-old former Marine. Edwards' wife, a substitute teacher,
cradled him in her arms as he lay dying on the floor.
Ramsey said he planned to kill himself, too. He
raised the gun to his chin but didn' t pull the trigger. Instead, he
threw down his gun and yelled "I don' t want to die" when police
In the hours after the killings, Ramsey said, he
felt "good," as if he had solved his problems. "Through my crime, I
released hate and pain."
Ramsey said his pain began when he was a little
He spent most of his childhood in foster homes. His
mother is an alcoholic, he said.
His father, Don, served 10 years in prison for
raiding the now-defunct Anchorage Times armed with guns and smoke
grenades after the paper refused to publish his political letter. He
was released a few weeks before his son' s shooting spree.
Among the 450 kids at his school, Ramsey was
neither popular nor an outcast. He was nicknamed "Screech" for a geeky
character from the TV show "Saved By the Bell."
"People enjoy thinking there is something really
different about these kids . . . because it distinguishes them and
their children from children that kill," said Renee Erb, who
prosecuted Ramsey. "But it' s not true. You would not have been able
to distinguish Evan from hundreds of other kids at his school."
He had a few close friends, including James Randall
and Matthew Charles, both 14. After school, they spent hours playing
Doom, a computer game in which animated characters stalk, shoot and
kill each other.
The three boys compiled a mental "hit list" of
teachers they hated and students who teased them, Ramsey said.
He listed a ninth-grade girl and boy among his
chief tormenters. They spit on him and called him stupid, Ramsey said.
He didn' t shoot them that morning because he didn' t see them.
"Now I look back," he said, "and I wonder why did I
let him get me so upset? Big deal that he said I was stupid."
Ramsey got the gun from the home of his foster
mother, Sue Hare, who was also superintendent of the school district.
James Randall showed him how to load it. The next day, he took it to
school, hiding it in his pants.
Ramsey told other classmates something big was
going to happen. About a dozen spectators gathered in the library, on
a mezzanine that overlooks the lobby.
No one told an adult.
"I didn' t think of the ' after,' " Ramsey said. "I
thought, ' What is it going to take to get rid of the problem now?' "
Matthew Charles later pleaded guilty to criminally
negligent homicide. Randall was convicted of second-degree murder.
Both boys were tried as juveniles and can only be held until age 19.
Prison officials will not disclose whether either has been released.
Ramsey is serving approximately 200 years for
murder, attempted murder and assault, making his probable release
date, with time off for good behavior, sometime in the next century.
Assuming he lives long enough, he could have a
hearing before the parole board in 2066, said Craig Turnbull,
assistant superintendent of Spring Creek Correctional Center, where
Ramsey is held.
"Prisons are very hard on people. They grow old
faster," Turnbull said. "The harsh reality is he will never get out."
Ramsey is short and slender. He wears a buzz cut
and a thin moustache. He has a few pimples. He' s started lifting
For a boy who had such trouble standing up to
bullies in high school, he quickly learned how to survive in prison.
When an inmate accused Ramsey of cheating at cards, he attacked him
with a battery-filled sock.
"The other inmates told me I' d have to get into a
fight with him to prove I' m not a cheater in order to be left alone,"
Spring Creek Correctional Center is 12 miles down a
country road outside Seward, a port town 130 miles from Anchorage
where tourists come for summer cruises past glaciers and fiords.
Ramsey is housed in an area for "youthful offenders,"
42 inmates under 21 whose crimes were so serious they were sentenced
Four hours a day, he takes classes led by local
high school teachers. Ramsey expects to earn his high school
equivalency later this year. Prison officials will have a ceremony,
complete with caps and gowns.
He shares a cell with Shawn Aldridge, 20, who is
serving 20 years for the beating and knifing death of a cab driver.
They get along. Recently, Aldridge and the other inmates chose Ramsey
as "role model of the week."
Two hours a day, Ramsey can shoot hoops in the gym
or hang out in the yard. It might not sound so bad, except there is
All there is, and all there will be, is a 11-by 8-foot
cell with a lidless toilet at the foot of a bunk bed that squeaks each
time somebody rolls over; a recreation yard ringed by razor wire; and
an all-purpose room where the tables and the metal stools are bolted
to the floor.
This is the daily routine:
Ramsey wakes up at 5:40 a.m. when correctional
officers peer into his cell to make sure he hasn' t escaped, the first
of eight body counts that occur throughout the day and night.
There' s another count after the shift change at 6
a.m. Then Ramsey' s door is unlocked remotely. His cell opens into the
all-purpose room, roughly the size of a basketball court.
At 6:30 a.m., he lines up and receives his
breakfast on a tray. After he eats, he mops the floor.
At 7 a.m., correctional officers escort him outside
for recreation. He' s brought in at 8:40 a.m.
At 10 a.m., he cleans his cell. At 10:30, it' s
At 11 a.m., he' s "locked down" for another count.
Lunch is at 11:15. Then he mops the floor again.
From noon to 4 p.m., he takes classes at the same
table where he eats breakfast and lunch. Dinner is at 4:15 p.m. Then
For the next six hours, he can watch TV, play cards
or study in that same room. Any misbehavior -- fighting, refusal to do
homework or keep a cell clean -- can land him in isolation. At 11
p.m., he is locked down for the night.
Ramsey said he has trouble sleeping. He passes the
time listening to the heavy-metal bands Korn or Cradle of Filth on a
portable CD player he bought from the prison commissary with money
from his mopping job. He makes $21 a month.
Or he re-reads a stack of letters from his fiancee,
a 21-year-old woman named Whitney from Greenville, N.C.
Whitney saw him interviewed on MTV and wrote him a
letter, Ramsey said. She told him she knew what it felt like to be an
outsider and sent him photos of herself she took by pointing a camera
at a mirror.
Whitney told Ramsey she' s moving to Seward soon.
They could have a wedding ceremony at the prison, but Alaska does not
permit conjugal visits.
"If she asks me to do something, I' ll do it," he
said. "If she tells me to stay away from playing cards, I will. If she
tells me no matter what, don' t get into a fight, I won' t get into a
If Whitney shows, she will be his first visitor
since New Year' s Day, 2000, when his mother surprised him.
Ramsey' s father, who lives in Anchorage, hasn' t
been to see him in more than two years. He doesn' t have a car, Ramsey
Ramsey' s older brother, John, can' t visit because
he recently finished a prison term for armed robbery.
Ramsey recently called his mother, collect. "She
happened to be drunk," he said. "She told me she was feeling sad, like
nobody cared about her."
Ramsey takes anti-depressants. Sometimes Turnbull,
the assistant superintendent, catches a glimpse of the convicted
killer with his head bent, weeping.
From the narrow window in his cell, if he cranes
his neck just so, Ramsey can see snow-covered spruce trees gripping an
icy mountain, a sliver of Alaska' s vast wilderness.
"Almost every day (the mountain) is different,"
Ramsey said. "Some days there' s a fog or mist over it. Some days the
sun is shining over a certain part of it."
Ramsey takes pleasure in nature' s subtle changes,
but the mountain, timeless and immovable, also taunts him. "A couple
of times I' ve wondered what' s on the other side," he said. "It would
be a neat thing to see."
But the thread that' s tethering his mind to the
world outside is fraying.
Ramsey rarely thinks of the shooting or of the
people he killed. He has not tried to contact their families.
He said he cannot think of something he' d want to
do if he could walk away from the prison.
According to Turnbull, that' s not surprising. "Their
reality is right here, right now," he said. "They can' t keep asking
themselves ' What if? What if I was outside? What if I hadn' t done it?'
It will kill them."
At night, as Ramsey tosses and turns, his thoughts
drift to the far-off fantasy of his release. Maybe he could get a job
as a taxi dispatcher where his brother works.
"I' m going to do everything I' m able to do to
take the right steps to make my chances of getting out increase," he
But then the truth whips across the surface of his
consciousness, chilling him far worse than an Alaskan wind.
"Would they actually let somebody back into society
that lived this kind of lifestyle for 60 years' "? Ramsey said. "It
wouldn' t make sense . . . to let him go free."
Deep down, he knows he will never take a bath, cook
himself a meal or go for a long walk.
He will never go home for Thanksgiving, curl up in
bed with a woman or start a family.
For this young man, there is no moving on from the
cold, dark morning he went to school a student and left a murderer.
There is no making amends.
And there is no tomorrow that can be any different