Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Aftermath of Luther College incident

Police approach Luther CollegeToday's media offerings on the gunman incident at Luther College High School have mostly consisted of journalistic cud-chewing. However, I did find a couple of interesting things hinted at in today's CBC article.

Charges have been laid against the young offender, who obviously can't be named. True to form, his parents are shocked and say that their son is basically a good kid. Sometimes, the modern interpretation of "good" is so elastic that the word becomes essentially meaningless, seeing as it seems to exclude nothing. Granted, it's obvious the young fellow wanted to make a statement, rather than killing people, so he's not as bad as he could have been. But still... Not knowing enough about the whole situation, I won't say anything else. I know parents always want to believe the best of their children and it's pretty devastating when you are dramatically confronted with the proof you were wrong. Denial is perhaps necessary for emotional survival, at least in the short term.
Brad Tilling, the boy's lawyer, told reporters after the brief appearance that his client was calm and understood what was happening.

Tilling said the parents of the youth were shocked by the allegations against their son.

"They would like people to know that he is a good kid and obviously there was some difficulty the other day," Tilling said.

"There's apparently quite a story behind that," Tilling added and suggested that details would come at a later time.

"But basically they want people to know he's a good kid and this is an aberration," he concluded.

I have a hard time imagining a "story" that would justify the boy's behaviour.

The other thing that really caught my eye is that the College may have alerted the authorities in regard to this young fellow as early as last year.
Perlson (the College president) said the student was expelled last year, but declined to say why.

"I can tell you there was concern. And we expressed that concern to authorities."

Which raises the question: what concerns did they share with "authorities" and should the police have picked up on it? Or were they relatively inconsequential, putting the boy on a list with hundreds of others who seemed only likely to indulge in minor mischief? I'm not one of these people who expect authorities to have perfect foresight, but I'm also aware that they drop the ball sometimes, and the results can be fatal. I hope somebody is pressing the issue. If the boy had been intent on killing, things would have turned out very differently.

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Steampunk Festival

Heather over at The Galaxy Express has devoted this week to steampunk, in all its creaking glory.

I'm pointing this out mainly because The Galaxy Express is becoming a must-read for anyone interested in science fiction/fantasy. A lot of work goes into it, and the seriousness shows. So if speculative fiction is your thing, check it out.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A nice clear explanation of the current financial crisis

Treasury SecretaryI found this layman's explanation of the upheaval on Wall Street in an off-topic section of a writer's forum. It's clear and written in non-technical language and presented in easy bite-size concepts so that non-economists can wrap their heads around it. I hope this fellow works as a technical writer or a journalist, because people who can explain things well are all too rare.

Some of the posts that followed were pretty good too, so click here if you want to read the whole thread.

And here is Chuck Colson's take on the moral and political aspects, complete with a bibliography of links at the bottom.

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Gunman in my alma mater [Updated 8:05]

Luther CollegeThis makes it all come home, doesn't it? In the most literal way. When a gunman holds the student body hostage in the gymnasium of the high school you went to, all those school shooting stories take on a whole new reality.

The news is just breaking, but it appears to have had a happy ending. The gunman was taken into custody and no shots were fired.

Some classic elements are present from what I can see. An unhappy former student. Male. Probably young, so the chances of me knowing him are more than remote.

I am so thankful no one was killed. My adolescent memories are already going to have to deal with the images of a gunman in the halls. Peopling them with corpses would be unbearable.

Police at Luther

Updates will follow if there's anything interesting.

If anybody from Regina has information that isn't hitting the national media, please let me know.

The gunman, still unnamed, is indeed young. He would have been part of the Grade 12 class had he still been attending Luther College High School. He approached the pastor leading the daily chapel service and required him at gunpoint to read a three-page letter. School officials managed to clear out most of the students, but the Grade 12 class remained. I'm having a hard time picturing how that went, but further reports should hopefully clear that up.

Reactions of students have been similar to mine: how could this happen here? A small, academically oriented, private school with church affiliations (not that you should conclude that the student body is particularly religious). It doesn't seem to fit. But then these things rarely do, do they? Both school officials and police are being very tight-lipped about the identity of the gunman and what exactly happened. Rumours say that there was perhaps some advance warning, that the gun was only an airgun and not a firearm. Is bullying the issue here?

The gunman had a pellet gun, not a real firearm. This has apparently been announced on the local radio in Regina.

From the comment trail on the CBC article:
Everyone... I was there. im a new student grade 9 in fact... we went into chapel like any other ordinary day when a guy came in. Blonde hair and a camo gun... a compact .22 or 355 magnum.. im not an expert so anyway... we were in the gym/chapel for about 40 minutes.... people were crying... we (me and my friends) thought this was a skit/drill.... Sadly, it was not... It was pure terror and fear... I can say one thing... i never felt so emotional about high-school shootings... But trust me. if it ever happens to you, you will be very scared.... the first thing i did when i was scared was turn my cell phone level to vibrate... i sent a text to my dad telling him there was a guy with a gun in the school... after, my mom called. i ducked behind a student and told my mom.... call the cops.... thaank her soul, she did... the cops were on their way.... Our principal, MR. Anderson taackled the gunman and we all ran out.... when we ran we all knew then it wasnt a drill... The police and swat were there.... and we ran to the daycare to escape the high-school... my parents later found me and about 30 - 1 hour after the incident. here i am typing... I want to get the word out... To everyone in highschool or not... please FEEL sorry for the victims... I never thought this would happen to me... Untill it did... I NOW know the feelings of people in High-school shootings..... MY feelings go out to them....

If youve read this I, Thank you...

The letter apparently contained a disjointed rant about the boy's expulsion last year.

One news report incorrectly identifies the school as Catholic. I guess the Chinese don't get the incongruity of a Catholic school named Luther.

The principal, Mark Anderson, intervened physically (either tackling him or just grabbing the gun, there are different reports) when he realized that the gun was not a firearm.

Another report:
The principal of the school says he wrestled away the gun from an angry youth who had barged into the school's chapel in the middle of morning prayer.

Luther College's Mark Anderson says he kept talking with the youth, who was holding the school's pastor at gunpoint and making him read a letter.

Anderson says he got close enough to see that the weapon was not a real handgun.

At that point, he grappled with the suspect and held him until police arrived and arrested him.

No shots were fired and no one was injured.

Police, who have a 16-year-old in custody, say the weapon was an air-driven pellet pistol.

Police, including a SWAT team, converged on the school after receiving calls about the incident.

More details:
While police set up outside the school, inside the gym, Luther's principal Mark Anderson noticed the weapon was not as serious as first thought, so he approached the suspect and tried talking him out of acting further.

Anderson said he got a hold of the boy, but the suspect wringled loose.

Other teachers closed around him and then the SWAT team members from the Regina Police Service took him into custody.

More than 400 students were in the gym when the boy first entered.

Anderson estimates about 250 were able to get out while he talked to the boy

And here's the bullying aspect:
Alex McNair, a student at the Luther College high school, said the gunman forced the pastor to read a letter about his expulsion. He said the letter was about how the gunman had been bullied.

More student testimonies here.

Further details from this afternoon's press conference. It includes praise for students and staff for keeping their composure and handling the situation well.

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