How could so many people think that White is too young (at 13) to be charged as an adult? He wasn't too young to take a gun to the school, fire it into the ceiling, and if fortune had not intervened, Memorial Principal Steve Gilbreth, and who knows how many other people, would not be with us today.
I know students and teachers welcomed Judge William Carl Crawford's decision Wednesday to have White stand trial as an adult. Judging from the testimony given at the hearing, the intent to kill was obvious. Consider this passage from Jeff Lehr's article in today's Joplin Globe.
Kim Comstock, a supervisor at the Jasper County Juvenile Detention Center in Joplin, was listening to detainees over an intercom on the night of Oct. 10.
There had been a lot of talk among them about what 13-year-old Thomas White had done the day before, when he allegedly walked into Memorial Middle School with an assault rifle, taken from his father's gun locker, fired a shot into a hallway ceiling and tried to shoot the school's principal when he approached.
Comstock heard one of the boys say that White should have shot Principal Stephen Gilbreth.
"I would have shot him in the head," Comstock heard White reply. "But my f------ gun wouldn't shoot."
For White to be tried in juvenile court and to quickly be returned to normal everyday society would have sent exactly the wrong message. How would that deter any other teenager with a grievance and a gun?
I cannot even imagine what it was like at Memorial Middle School the day of the shooting or even during the two months since. I know how it was at South Middle School. The kids tried to hide their fear, but it was evident. It was evident in the way they talked about the incident in hushed tones- Kids don't talk about anything in hushed tones. The incident weighed heavily on teachers' minds, as well.
Trying and convicting (if that happens) Thomas White in adult court is not going to guarantee there will never be another such incident at Memorial Middle School or at another Joplin school, but allowing White to get a slap on the wrist for an event that traumatized a community would be sending the wrong message to those who lived through the horrific incident...and to those who might consider trying something similar.