On January 23, 2018, Marshall County High School (MCHS) in Benton, Kentucky, became the site of the first mass school shooting in 2018. Just before 8:00 a.m., fifteen-year-old Gabe Parker walked into a common area in which students were gathering before classes, and opened fire. Two students, Bailey Nicole Holt, fifteen, and Preston Ryan Cope were murdered. Fourteen others were injured.
When he was finished firing on the students, the shooter dropped his gun and ran into the school’s weight room, where he attempted to blend in with his panicked classmates as they feared for their lives. He also called his mother and told her there had been a shooting. However, it took only minutes for a fellow classmate to recognize him and inform a teacher in the room who, in turn, alerted authorities. When confronted, the shooter surrendered without a fight.
In court, detectives testified that in his taped confession, the shooter indicated no real motive. Rather, “he was interested in science and saw the shooting as an experiment.” According to his statement, he wasn’t bullied, he didn’t have a troubled home life, and just wanted to “break the monotony.” The shooter also told detectives he used his stepfather’s unsecured gun to carry out the shooting.
Located only thirty miles from Heath High School, the site of another deadly school shooting twenty years earlier, some parents who had survived that attack had children involved in this one. This compounded the urgency for a response from the school and law enforcement. In the summer of 2018, six months after the shooting, the county formed a safety committee and has implemented measures recommended by that group including the installation of metal detectors and a ban on book bags.
Students from MCHS have also joined in the chorus of young voices pleading for a stronger, nationwide response to school safety and gun control, and on March 24, 2018, they participated in March For Our Lives. They’ve since started their own local chapter of the grass-roots organization.