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Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (16) - School shooting
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: February 19, 1997
Date of arrest: Same day (surrenders)
Date of birth: February 8, 1981
Victims profile: Josh Palacios, 15 (fellow student) and Ron Edwards (school principal)
Method of murder: Shooting (Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun)
Location: Bethel, Alaska, USA
Status: Sentenced to 210 years in prison on December 2, 1998. Reduced on appeal to two 99-year prison sentences

The Court of Appeals of the State of Alaska

opinion 1832

Evan Ramsey is a convicted American murderer, who killed two and wounded two in a school shooting at Bethel Regional High School in Bethel, Alaska on February 19, 1997. Ramsey was a 16 year old sophomore at the time.


Evan's father was sent to prison when he was 7, and then his mother slipped into alcoholism. Ramsey and his siblings were then sent to foster homes, and in at least one he was sexually abused. He suffered from depression from as young as 10 and was contemplating suicide 5 years before the shootings.


Ramsey was reportedly picked on frequently at school. According to friends, Ramsey wasn't very smart and was often called names such as "retard", "spaz" or "braindead".

Additionally, Evan wasn't the first in his family to bring a gun into a public place. In 1986 Evan's father Don was nicknamed "Rambo of Alaska" after an incident in which a newspaper refused to publish his letter, he went to the newspaper's office armed with an .223 semi-automatic assault rifle and a .44 magnum revolver and over 200 rounds of ammunition. After a short stand-off, Don Ramsey surrendered, and was imprisoned.

Two weeks after his father was paroled Evan perpetrated the school shooting. Reports say over 20 people knew of Ramsey's plan to shoot up the school, and two actually helped Ramsey, one by teaching him how to use a shotgun, and the other telling him of the infamy that would come. Reports say one student even brought a camera to school on the day.

Ramsey also played Doom frequently, and his father told the press after the shooting that he believed his son may have been imitating Doom, a First Person Shooter video game.


Ramsey used a 12 gauge pump action shotgun. As before mentioned, Ramsey was a fan of the game Doom, in which the pump action shotgun is used frequently. Ramsey stole the weapon from the home of his foster mother.


On the 19th of February, Ramsey entered the school lobby brandishing a shotgun, and killed 15 year old student Josh Palacios. He then shot the principal dead and wounded two more shortly after. He then put the shotgun barrel under his chin, but couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger. When police arrived on the scene, he surrendered.


Ramsey was charged as an adult, and sentenced to 200 years in a maximum-security prison, and is eligible for parole in 2066.


  • Josh Palacios

  • Ron Edward

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 February 19, 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.

The shooting

On Wednesday, 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 sentences.

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.

On 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 shed light.

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 well.

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 time.

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 did.

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 article published.

"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 yesterday's news."


No way out

Consumed by hate, teen killed; now he says living in prison is worse than living with his rage

By Jenifer Hanrahan -

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," Ramsey said.

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 Alaskan tundra.

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 and disbelief.

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 closed in.

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 boy.

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 weights.

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," he said.

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 as adults.

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 nothing else.

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 inspected.

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 more mopping.

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 fight."

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 said.

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 said.

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 from today.



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