- Freeman High School Shooting - September 13, 2017. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich’s message at a press conference after the fatal school shooting at Freeman High School in Rockford, WA.
Sheriff Knezovich spoke to the Spokane community, sharing his own thoughts about what he thinks is a culture of violence that makes senseless violence a norm. This Sheriff is known for speaking candidly about issues that he feels strongly about. Much of the discussion at the press conference concerned his thoughts on society and school shootings, why they happen, and what he thinks has to happen to change that.
“We have another tragic situation, where a young man decided to go and kill some of his friends. Why? Because we have a culture that said, 'It's OK.' And you need to start fixing that.
“Folks, you are going to find that I am very much not politically correct, and the older I get, the less my filter works.
“We have developed a system within our schools that those teachers and those administrators and everything else are so handcuffed and so hamstrung, that they can't deal with the issues that they need to deal with; because we have put so many restrictions on their ability to control their classrooms, to keep people that shouldn't be in school, out of school.
"Don't be blaming the schools for this. Blame yourselves. You're the ones that put the restrictions on them. Take a hard look at what you've got, because we have some kids that are in need of some very severe help, and we as a society are not giving them that help. If anything, we are enabling them. So take a hard look at what you are seeing here. You're not going to hear me tap dance about this. You've got a mess out there. We created it. You need to figure out how to fix it.
“This is a situation that plays out in our society way too often, and we as a society, need to make a determination as to 'What's causing this?' Because, I can tell you that 35 years ago isn’t that long ago, and we didn’t do that.
“Where did we really go sideways in raising our kids? Perhaps, we taught them to glorify the wrong things. All of this violence they constantly consume, has come home to pay a major price.
“It is time for each and every one of us to say, ‘No more’ to the hate that we see, and to the violence that we see. We have now a culture where people think that they can dress in black and go out and commit all kinds of acts of violence in the name of trying to get their own way. That’s not who we are, folks. That is not the way the system was designed. We deserve as a society, and quite frankly our kids deserve, much better than we have given them. It is time for you to wake up. No more hatred. No more radicalized hate. None of this is going to make any sense; because you can’t make any sense of the senseless, and this is just senseless violence.
“That young man (suspect) was carrying an AR15 and a handgun. Thank God he had jammed that AR up so badly, that it was not going to function. He transitioned to that pistol, and when one of the classmates that he knew came up to him and tried to talk him out of it, he put one round in his midsection and one round in his head. He then indiscriminately started firing, striking three other classmates, who thankfully are now recovering in the hospital.
“That young man (Sam Strahan who tried to stop the suspect from firing at their fellow students) who gave his life, stepped into the breach that we as a society have created, to save his fellow classmates.
“The next hero in this is the janitor, Joe Bowen. As soon as Joe saw the situation, the shooter luckily had run out of ammunition, had thrown his pistol down, went like this (arms out), and Joe confronted the shooter, ordered him to the ground, and then held him there.
“The school Resource Deputy was in the middle school, which was right across the street from the high school. He did what he was trained to do. He ran towards that gun fire, went into that school alone, and helped Joe take that suspect into custody. That school Resource Deputy and that school and that community have a special relationship to the point that a few years ago that community named a day after that deputy. They love each other, and that’s the way it should be. Maybe that’s what we need to teach our kids any more, some of that old school stuff, Love One Another.
"We now have a 15-year old in Juvenile that will be going in front of a judge. All indications are that the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office plans to recommend the 15-year old shooting suspect be prosecuted as an adult and charged with premeditated murder, because this young gentleman got sucked into a counter culture of violence, a culture that is enamored with school shootings.
“And media, you are to blame for that, ‘cause you keep giving these people headlines. You keep using their names. In using their names, you have made them heroes to some people. If I had my way, none of these people’s names would ever be remembered. The family’s name would be remembered. Joe’s name might be remembered, but not the shooter’s. Until we start treating these people for what they are - killers, not heroes - they’re going to continue this violence. It needs to end. If we are going to have a peaceful society, you (media) need to help us end this violence.
“You (media) have glorified cultures of violence. You have glorified the gang culture. You have glorified games that actually give you points for raping and killing people. Guns haven't changed. We have changed.
“To those in the political world, ‘Knock it off! Enough!’ Both the right and the left. You are both enamored by a radicalized hate. You seem to hate everybody and everything. It’s time for you to end that, too; because we, the American people, desire better than what you are giving us, and it’s time we demand better than what you are giving us.
“We have a community that is in mourning. We still have a funeral to go to. This will be a long process. But I will tell you, if I could, I would have you all experience what that mother experienced yesterday, and what every police officer and every student and every parent experienced yesterday, when she found out her son wasn’t coming home, because there's nothing like that scream. You will never forget it. I have heard it one too many times. My heart goes out to her, because she lost her husband 3 months ago also. Half of her family is now gone, part because of senseless violence.
“If there is something (the media) want to communicate to the American public, it is the true aftermath of these shootings, which is the victims, not the shooter. Maybe that is what you need to focus on, because maybe you will influence the next kid that wants to do this, when they see the carnage they leave behind, because that is what this is, is carnage. We do not deserve this as a nation, and it is time to put an end to it.
“There is a message to those who see (violence) coming (and don’t speak up). You need to prevent that.
“Here is the problem though. We have made doing what is right - wrong. Because the minute one of these kids goes in and says ‘Joey is going to do something,’ they get labeled what? A snitch. We have made doing what is right - wrong. So, we need to teach those kids that if you see something like this, we need to know. If you see something like this on Facebook or social media, we need to know. We are not mind readers.
“We need to train our kids to do the right thing, rather than create a culture where, if they try to do the right thing, they are chastised. If you see it, talk about it, but don't label them. And kids, if you see it, you need to speak up, because it may be your friend that you save. You can't be afraid of losing a friend, because you don't know how many friends it could cost you. But that is one of the things we definitely need to make sure our kids understand, that it's OK to do the right thing, they are not a snitch, its doing the right thing. “We are not mind readers folks. We need to know that before we can do anything, but at the same time the system needs to allow us to do things.
“We (law enforcement) had no knowledge of this matter, no prior knowledge. I would love to have known, because maybe we could have done something. That's not a guarantee, because what would we have done? We would have gotten a hold of mental health.
"I don't blame the local mental health either. They don't have the money to deal with this, because the State has abandoned them. They have pushed this problem to the local level, and the local levels are not equipped to deal with it. This is a state and national issue, and they had better wake up and start dealing with it.
“Quite frankly this is another example of the mental health system in this country collapsing around our ears. And perhaps those elected officials who control those monies can funnel a little bit more to help these people out, because our mental health system is collapsing.
(Regarding the toll that it takes on law enforcement) “These are things that we live with on a constant day-to-day basis. The toll that it takes on us? Ask the deputy that stepped into my office three weeks ago and said, "Boss, I can't do it no more." And he is laying down 15 years of a career. Because he can't do it anymore, because of the violence that he has seen, because of what is going on in this nation. And folks, when we start giving up, you are in trouble!
“For those of you in the greater Spokane area, when your kids come home tonight, I hope you give them a kiss, and give them a hug, because they came home. There will be one young man who doesn't come home, ever again."
(Source: News Conference: “Spokane Co. Sheriff: Media, government and society to blame for school shootings," KREM 4 TV News, September 2017,
- President Barack Obama, speaking on the tragedy of Mass Shootings over 6 years in America, as he delivered his 15th statement on gun violence. "The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it. We've become numb to this."
November 2009, Ford Hood, Texas. "There has been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas. It is difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on American soil."
January 2011, Tucson, Arizona. "This is a tragedy for Arizona, and a tragedy for our entire country."
July 2012, Aurora, Colorado. "Such violence, such evil, is senseless; and if there is anything that can be taken away from this tragedy is the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited, and it is precious."
June 2015, Charleston, S.C. "I have had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of violence does to happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency."
August 2012, Oak Creek, Wisconsin. "We mourn those who were senselessly murdered and injured in their place of worship. While we may never understand what motivates such hatred, such violence, the perpetrators of such despicable actions must know that your twisted thinking is no match for the compassion and the goodness and the strength of our united American family."
December 2012, Newtown, Connecticut. "We have endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. Each time I learn the news, I react not as a President, but as anybody else would, as a parent, and that was especially true today. I know there is not a parent in America who does not feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old."
September 2013, Washington, D.C. "We are confronting yet another mass shooting, and today it happened on a military installation in our nation's Capitol."
April 2014, Fort Hood, Texas. "Any shooting is troubling. Obviously, ths opens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood 5 years ago. We are heartbroken that something like this might have happened again."
June 2015, Charleston, S.C. " I have had to make statements like this - too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this - too many times. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency."
October 2015, Roseburg, Oregon. "There has been another mass shooting in America. This time in a community college in Oregon. That means there are more American families, moms, dads, children, whose lives have been changed forever....As I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It is not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America. But we are not the only country on earth that has people with mental illness who want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on earth that sees these mass shootings every few months.
Somehow, this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it - we have become numb to this. It cannot be this easy for someone who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun. And, what has become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common sense gun legislation."
(President Barack Obama, addressing the nation from the White House after at least 10 people were killed by a 26-year old gunman at Umpqua Community College in Oregon; CNN News and The Associated Press, October 1, 2015; "Over 6 years, as he has had to address numerous mass shootings, President Obama's statements have grown angrier and more beleaguered," by Caitlin Prentke, June 26, 2015)
- Regarding "Gun Control," consider a statement from Virtual State of the Union. The Virtual President talks about why politicians want to talk about gun control rather than crime control, and delivers the factual evidence and historical truths that make the case for the Second Amendment self-evident. Published on February 21, 2013 For the latest from The Virtual President go to
- "Any time we have a horrific incident like a mass shooting, these things can have a tendency to become politicized. One of the things that I would do to reduce - we are not going to be able to eliminate these things entirely - but to reduce the likelihood of this mass carnage is to get rid of these gun-free zones. These gun-free zones - in theaters, churches, college campuses, elementary schools - are chosen by the perpetrator for a reason. He knows that nobody is going to be able to interrupt him until mass carnage occurs.
We ought to give people the individual freedom, the individual right, to under certain circumstances, like a concealed carry license, to go armed in these venues in case something like this happens, for their own protection and to have a chance. Look at Chicago, Illinois. Look at Washington, D.C., the Federal district. If gun control really worked, those would be two of the safest areas in the United States; but, in fact, they are two of the most violent." (Sheriff David Clarke, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Voices Against Violence, CBS Evening News, October 2, 2015)
- "There is a gun for roughly every man, woman and child in America." (President Barack Obama, CNN, October 1, 2015)
- Gunshot wounds are the 3rd leading cause of death for children. Researchers say at least 1,300 children die each year from firearm incidents. (Source: KREM 2 News, June 19, 2017)
- In 2015, at least 278 children under the age of 18 in the U.S. picked up a firearm and unintentionally shot themselves, or someone else. ("Once upon a Gun," reported by the gun control group Every Town U.S.A., CBS This Morning, March 25, 2016)
- 350 U.S. citizens were killed overseas, as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2001 to 2013. (U.S. State Department, CNN, October 2, 2015)
3,030 people were killed in domestic acts of terrorism inside the U.S. between 2001 and 2013. This brings the total to 3,380.
For every American killed by terrorism, in the U.S. and around he world, more than 1,000 died from firearms inside the U.S. during the most recent decade for which comparative data is available. The gun fatalities cover all manners of death including homicide, accident and suicide. (Centers for Disease control and Prevention, U.S. State Department, Julia Jones and Eve Bower, CNN, October 2, 2015)
- Over 13 years, 406,496 people died by firearms on U.S. soil from 2001 to 2013, using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013 is the most recent year CDC data for deaths by firearms is available.) This data covered all manners of death, including homicide, accident and suicide.
350 U.S. citizens were killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2001 to 2013. (U.S. State Department, CNN, October 2, 2015)
3,030 people were killed in domestic acts of terrorism inside the U.S. between 2001 and 2013. This brings the total to 3,380.
For every American killed by terrorism in the U.S. and around he world, more than 1,000 died from firearms inside the U.S. during the most recent decade for which comparative data is available. The gun fatalities cover all manners of death including homicide, accident and suicide. (Centers for Disease control and Prevention, U.S. State Department, Julia Jones and Eve Bower, CNN, October 2, 2015)
- In 2011, the total firearm murders was 8,583. During that same time, the total murders committed by all rifles, including assault weapons or semi-automatic rifles, was 323, or 3% of all murders. Hammers and clubs killed half as many as rifles; and hands and feet murder twice as many; and knives kill 5 times more Americans than all rifles combined. Preventable medical errors kill about 98,000 people per year, or more than 12 times as many people as are murdered in the U.S. each year. That is more than 300 times the number killed by all rifles, not just the so-called assault rifles. Ironically, no one talks about limits on hammers or knives or knives or doctors or hospitals....because the good we perceive from hammers and knives and doctors far outweigh their perceived harm; and yet, studies show that firearms prevent anywhere from 800,000 to over 2 million violent crimes every year. The lowest estimate means that 100 times more violent crimes were prevented with firearms than the total murders committed with firearms, or 100 times as many.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution is there to protect the American people, giving them the right to keep and bear arms to defend themselves. What we really want to ban is violence, murder and insanity, which are built into the human condition, and likely always will be.
When other governments disarmed their people, 12 million unarmed men, women and children were unable to resist being murdered by their own national, socialist government in Germany; and perhaps 50 million unarmed men, women and children were murdered by their own Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and 50 million Chinese were murdered by their own government under Mao, who also disarmed his people; and in Cuba and in Vietnam, and in the killing fields of Cambodia. Every one of these 100 million men, women and children, who were murdered after being disarmed by their own governments, were real and precious and irreplaceable. (FBI statistics report, Virtual President of the United States, "Guns," Virtual State of the Union 2013, February 21, 2013,
- Help stop gun tragedies before they happen. If you know someone who has been proven to pose an extreme risk of harming themselves or others, contact law enforcement. A judge may be able to issue an extreme risk protection order to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a threat to themselves or others. This order allows families and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily suspend an individual's access to firearms, if they are a danger to themselves or to others. (Initiative 1491, passed by voters November 2016)
- Remember, and teach others, including children, to
Run away to escape danger. If running is not possible, or locking down makes more sense, then...
If you can't run, then look for things to hide behind, even within that place to hide, to protect yourself.
Defend yourself when your life is at risk. If you are forced to confront the shooter, fight!
Learn how to prevent and survive shootings.
Spokane County Sheriff Deputy Chris Johnston
Crime Prevention Unit
- "Ninety percent of school shooters have well-documented suicidal issues, and 30% of shooters actually say that suicide is their motive. So, if we screen, meaning ask a few questions, we may be able to find people and get the help they need before things like this happen.
The questions about suicidal thoughts are quite simple. You start with
"Have you wished you were dead?'
"Do you wish you could go to sleep and not wake up?"
'Have you actually had thoughts of killing yourself?"
If (the answer) is 'No,' then you move on; however, if that is 'Yes,' then it is tiered, so we can, in a very feasible way, figure out who is really at risk and who really needs help.
Imagine that an employee of a gun store, or when somebody goes to get a gun license, all of these places, they could be trained to ask these questions, and maybe somebody who is suffering in silence will be identified before it is too late." (Dr. Kelly Posner, founder of the Suicide Center at Columbia University, New York, Voices Against Violence, CBS Evening News, October 2, 2015)