Archives for category: Gun Violence

Seven years ago last Friday, while most of America was getting ready to start their school day, people were getting ready for their work day and shoppers were in malls and shopping centers in America. There was this school in Newtown, Connecticut, 49 miles southwest of Hartford named Sandy Hook Elementary.

That morning, some hoped it would be a place of joy, wonder, happiness and learning. It was like any other school in the United States, with students coming in on buses, carpools or walking to school. It was a Friday morning and the weekend was approaching at the end of the school day. It was also nearing Christmas, where parties would be going on in various classrooms and gifts would be exchanged.

Those hopes and that day were shattered as a young man that in his own words loathed humanity took it upon himself to destroy the peace and quiet of the school. 20-year old Adam Lanza, took matters into his own hands that day, choosing to be an angel of death by using an assault rifle and killing 26 people in the school, 20 of those first-grade students and the other six adults that were there to be their guardians, guides and stay.

Lanza first killed his mother (who worked at the school) in their home before going on his murder spree. He was a loner of sorts, spending the majority of his time as a recluse, staying in the basement with blacked-out windows, obsessing over violence and following several mass murders that took place over the years.

According to the Hartford Courant, Lanza told an online gamer “I incessantly have nothing other than scorn for humanity.” Lanza had suffered from a form of autism called Aspargers. In documents that were released later, laid bare a life punctuated by issues that led him to separate from his peers. In preschool, developmental speech delays made it difficult for him to communicate with classmates and later, he developed intense germophobia, an aversion to human contact and sensitivity to light and sounds. In his final months, he kept black trash bags over the windows of his bedroom to keep out light, forced his mother to get rid of the family cat and had communicated with his mother through email, even though he lived with her.

Adam Lanza could have faced judgement in a courtroom. Granted, the trial would have taken at least a year or more to get underway and voir dire (jury selection) would be somewhat of a problem and had he been found guilty of 26 counts of murder, he would probably have been sentenced to death or life in prison. Lanza instead chose the coward’s way out by shooting himself.

There are some that believe that Adam Lanza should not be given celebrity status and that the focus should be (and rightfully so) on the victims. 20 kids will never will never get to talk to Santa, get their drivers’ licenses, go to the prom, they’ll never graduate from high school or college or get married and have their own families. Adam Lanza is a coward, plain and simple. While some should not speak ill of the dead, there are exceptions to that rule.

The house that the Lanzas lived in, where he and his mother drew their final breaths on this Earth? Torn down, never to rise again. While the house could have been sold, it held too many memories for those that live in the area. As for the school? It was a crime scene for at least two years while state and federal law enforcement looked at the evidence to determine what happened that Friday morning and to see what could be done to prevent it from happening again.

From 9:40 in the morning to 3:10 in the afternoon (Eastern time), Adam Lanza thought he was judge, jury and executioner. Nancy Lanza was his first victim and 26 others suffered at his hands. Lanza could have done what was right, not what was popular, to quote Paul. Instead, Adam Lanza chose evil. Murderers don’t get hospitals, schools and parks named for them. They are not worthy of that honor. Whatever redeeming qualities Adam Lanza had melted like snow on a Spring day when he pulled the trigger and killed 26 people, including his own mother.

The heroes in this case? The first responders that took care of the wounded and dying, as well as the six adults that were there to protect them first as well as be their teachers. Last Saturday, Newton High School played in the Connecticut State Football Championship game and the home team had 26 angels on their shoulders on the football field as they would win in the final seconds of the contest to win for the first time in seven years. They could be considered heroes as well, as several players had younger siblings that were either injured or killed that day.

There will be news stories that will mention Adam Lanza and that’s fine; it’s part of their job. Let’s also keep in mind the first responders, the Connecticut State Police, AFT and FBI agents that were there seeking justice for the families of those that died. There are some that hold the belief that Adam Lanza’s name should never be uttered again in public. That’s their right as well.

Adam Lanza thought he won the day.

In the end, it was the people of Sandy Hook and the 26 victims that were the REAL winners.

For high schools this time of year, most students are getting ready for prom, baseball, graduation and vacation. Like most high schools, students struggled with subjects that they were probably not going to use the rest of their lives. The lives of the students at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, near Ft. Lauderdale, were about to undergo a change and it was a change that was as welcome as mosquitoes on a summer day in the Sunshine State.

Their peace and quiet as they knew would be changed forever and not for good. A former student, Nikolas Cruz, who once walked among them, shot his way through the school, sending students and teachers into hiding for their safety in the hopes that they would not be the next target. At the end of the horror and chaos, 17 people died, 14 of them students, three of them teachers and several more would be injured. Cruz would eventually be arrested and charged with the 17 deaths as well as the assault on the school. As of this writing, he sits behind bars without any chance of bail.

As for those that were injured, some will eventually recover, while others have injuries that will cripple them for the rest of their lives. Cruz took their peace and quiet and disrupted their lives, destroying that peace and quiet forever. Cruz, who was expelled from the same school that he attacked, is the poster child for the NRA. Cruz, through his appointed public defender, offered to plead guilty and take life without parole for his actions as long as the death penalty was taken off the table. So far, the District Attorney of Broward County and the Attorney General of the state of Florida have not made any decision or comment on that.

In the days following the massacre, students around the country planned a national walkout on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 13 people dead.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told NBC he was proud of the students and their response to the horrific incident. “They are intelligent, they’re articulate, they’re passionate, and they’re committed to securing a safe future for themselves. This is their moment, this is their generation and they’re stepping up and doing what needs to happen,” he said. “I feel so encouraged that this time it will be different.”

Before the Stoneman Douglas students march on Washington, they headed to Tallahassee and spoke to state leaders and it was  Jaclyn Corin, a student who organized the visit. Corbin told the Miami Herald and NBC News, “We are the ones that looked into Nikolas Cruz’s eyes. We took 17 bullets to the heart. We are the only ones who can speak up. We have to be the adults in this situation because clearly people have us failed us in the government, and we must make the change now because we’re the only ones who are going to.”

The students that went to Tallahassee to speak to their leaders saw that failure come to light as house Republicans on Tuesday decisively blocked a move by Democrats to debate a ban on assault weapons in Florida, six days after a massacre that took 17 lives at a Broward County high school.

The bill (HB 219), which would ban the sale and possession of semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines like the kind used by Cruz, has been mired in a House subcommittee for months and has not been heard. Amid rising tensions at the state Capitol, Democrats used a highly unusual procedure to move the proposal directly to the House floor for a debate and vote.

Republicans voted it down, 71 to 36. Several survivors of the massacre in Parkland, watching from the visitors’ gallery, were overcome with emotion and the action set off a firestorm of controversy on social media. They were also overcome with anger and righteous indignation.

These kids saw 17 of their friends die and the Florida Legislature, who were supposed to be their ally, chose party over their constituents. They failed the people of the state of Florida by not allowing discussion on HB 219, which would have effectively banned that type of weaponry in the state of Florida. This was their chance to beat swords into plowshares and do it in front of a group of students that recently lost 14 of their classmates and 3 of their teachers.

Instead of listening to their better angels, they chose to listen to the gun zealots and the NRA. They became cowards, plain and simple and there is hope that when these kids get out of college, they become legislators and vote you all out. While some of them were not old enough to drive, let alone vote, they chose an action that is respectful and peaceful. They let the world know that enough is enough. Their actions drew attention to a problem that needed to be addressed and addressed quickly before more people die needlessly.

That day, the Florida Legislature told the future voters of the Sunshine State that they didn’t give a damn about them. This is cowardice. The bigger question is this. When is going to end, when their child is shot or killed? 14 of their peers are dead. They will NEVER graduate from high school, have a Spring break, go to prom or Homecoming. 3 teachers dead, they will never stand in front of a group of students. They are gone forever and short of the Resurrection, they will never come back. Their blood is on the hands of the leaders they hoped would listen to them and protect them.

This in no way is an attempt to punish the people that own guns, the one that go through the PROPER channels to get a weapon and learn how to use it properly. Instead, it’s a call to our elected leaders to listen to their better angels and pass legislation that makes sense and if that means a re-write of the 2nd Amendment, so be it.

Recently, teachers were allowed to return to the school to get their cars and students were allowed to retrieve their personal belongings. They went back to school on Wednesday and when Wednesday came, there will be 17 fewer people at school. There will be fear and nerves that will be frayed. Those 17 that lost their lives will never walk those halls again. Their voices will be missed.

The elected adults failed the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and in the midst of the chaos, tears and blood being shed and anger, it was the students that chose the better course of action, a course of action that Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King would have approved. They took their anger and beat that anger into plowshares. They will further that action by registering to vote or voting in the upcoming midterm elections.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School chose to do what was right and challenge their leaders to do was right, not what was popular.

It’s time for the adults to follow suit.

In a few days, children across America will make their visits to Santa and hand him their lists as to what they want for Christmas. Gifts will be exchanged, Christmas parties will take place all over the nation, milk and cookies will be left for the fat man in the red suit, snow will be on the ground and carols will be sung in neighborhoods nationwide.

There will be 26 fewer singers that will be with them. Five years ago today, while most of the nation was getting ready for school or that last second Christmas shopping, Hell was released upon a school in Connecticut. December 14 was education’s equivalent to Pearl Harbor. Today is the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shooting that killed 20 students and six adults that were there to protect them.

The FBI recently released records that showed that Adam Lanza planned the killings that December morning. The report, which is more than 1,500 pages long, shows evidence that Lanza planned the shootings and had an interst in chidlren as well as some proof of pedophilia but no proof that he acted on that pedophilia. The records show that Lanza, who would eventually take his own life when he was cornered by law enforcement, began planning the attack as early as March of 2011.

According to the Associated Press and the Hartford Courant, the FBI behavioral analysis unit wrote, “the shooter did not ‘snap’ but instead engaged in careful, methodical planning and preparation. The shooter was ascinated with past shootings and researched them thoroughly. The shooter shared many similar characteristics and behaviors with other active shooters.”

Lanza’s killing spree began that Friday morning when he killed his mother at their Newton, Connecticut home before moving on to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The behavioral analysis unit document did not say what evidence there was that Lanza had a pedophilic interest in children. But another document says an unidentified woman told the FBI that Lanza said adult-child sexual relationships could be “possibly beneficial to both parties.”

The woman, who said she had an “online relationship” with Lanza for more than two years before the school shooting, said Lanza did acknowledge that adult-child sexual relationships could be “unhealthy” and did not express any personal sexual interest in children. She said Lanza believed he might be asexual. She also told the FBI that Lanza compiled a spreadsheet that meticulously documented hundreds of mass murders and spree killings but she didn’t believe he would carry out a mass killing and she said Lanza believed mass murders were a symptom of a broken society and may have believed he was “saving” children from the “harmful influences” of adults during the school shooting.

The documents offer a window into the early days of the investigation, as agents chased false leads and gathered evidence of Lanza’s isolation and include reports by FBI agents who interviewed people about Lanza. Portions of many of the documents were redacted, including the people’s names.

A year after the massacre, Connecticut state police released a final investigative document that concluded Lanza was obsessed with firearms, death and mass shootings but his motive may never be known. That report also mentioned pedophilia. In it, state investigators said they found on Lanza’s computer a file they described as “advocating pedophiles’ rights and the liberation of children.” They also said they found a screenplay describing a relationship between a 10-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man.

One person told an FBI agent that Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, had become concerned about him a month before the shooting because he had become a “shut in” who hadn’t gone anywhere in three months. Adam Lanza shot his mother to death in their home before going to the school. The person also told the FBI agent Adam Lanza never accepted he had Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum and never took medication he was prescribed.

A report by the Connecticut child advocate in 2014 concluded Lanza’s autism spectrum disorder and other psychiatric problems didn’t cause or lead directly to the massacre. The report said Nancy Lanza rejected psychologists’ recommendations her son be medicated and undergo rigorous treatment as a child for anxiety and other conditions. It said Adam Lanza, his parents and his educators contributed to his social isolation by not confronting his problems.

Another person told the FBI that Lanza essentially had become a “recluse” who played video games all day. The person said Lanza had no friends, was computer savvy and became very interested in firearms. Lanza also did not want pets in the family home and did not like to be touched when he was getting a haircut.

So we know more now about Adam Lanza than we did that December day. Given what we know now, Lanza was a troubled soul, short of being egotistical who didn’t care for anyone but himself. Lanza knew right from wrong and in the legal sense, that’s called “depraved indifference,” in which a person that commits a crime knows that it’s wrong but does it anyway.

26 people are no longer with us and the 20 children that he shot can’t come back to us and tell us what happened. The report is long and lenghty and while some of the information has been redacted for the sake of privacy, so not to cause further harm to those family members that lost a child that day. They’ve suffered enough. Granted, Adam Lanza is not with us to tell his side of the story or face justice, which could have happened had he not taken his own life. As for the house that the Lanza family lived in? It’s been torn down. There’s nothing there.


No creature will ever stir there.

Even the birds will shun the place.

Christmas will come. Gifts will be exchanged, Santa will make his rounds and children will have their lists. It’s a sure bet that Adam Lanza made the naughty list. That December morning, while some of us were getting ready to start our school days or finish that shopping, a madman came in and caused harm that will take years if not a millenium to heal. The flaws that Adam Lanza had were exposed for all the world to see and there are those that do not want his name uttered again ever. Adam Lanza tried to drag everyone into his own Hell and failed. There will be no roads named for him, no hospitals will have his name attached to their walls and don’t expect any Adam Lanza Elementary Schools in the distant future.

The window to Adam Lanza has been opened and while the view is not paradise by any means, it gives us a clearer picture as to what happened that day and why. Some of the questions have been answered by this report. Granted, there are 26 people that will never be heard from and that includes Lanza and his mother.

December 14 fell on a Thursday this year. Those that were killed will be remembered in some form and they should not be forgotten. Five years ago today, 20 children who wanted nothing more than to sit on Santa’s lap and tell them their Christmas wishes were silence, as were the six adults that were there to teach and protect them. For those like Rush Limbaugh and Adam Jones that insist that Sandy Hook never happen, they need to read the FBI report or keep silent. As for the NRA, at best they should be held liable (if not criminally responsible) for what happened.

Let’s hope they are NOT forgotten.

The public got a look at the new Sandy Hook Elementary School last week. Built on the site of the old school, the one where 20 students and six educators were killed by Adam Lanza before he took his own life, they saw a new building that was designed to be attractive, friendly to the environment, a place conducive to learning.

And the most important thing?

A place that is safe.

The new $50 million, 86,000-square-foot school was built on the same property but not in the old footprint, and is scheduled to open next month and local officials are hopeful that allowing the public to see the new school will give students a “quiet, respectful and appropriate opening as teachers and students return to the new school year,” Superintendent Joseph Erardi told the Hartford Courant and the Associated Press. The school, built with funds from a state grant, has features in place, including impact-resistant windows and state-of-the-art monitors. As for the ground floor, it will be elevated, which will make it harder for anyone to see inside the classrooms from the outside. It’s also been landscaped to ensure that if you are approaching the school, you’re visible to those that are inside and can enter by way of one of three pedestrian bridges and the outside has been changed to invoke nature, with tree houses and courtyards.

The driveway and parking lots? They’ve been changed as well, done so to minimize the emotional impact on teachers and students that will be seeing the property for the first time since the shooting in December 2012.

In a statement to the media, First Selectman Pat Llodra said, “Our goal was to create a place of community and learning, a place that would honor those we lost and allow those who were left behind the chance to move forward.”

Since the shooting, Sandy Hook students have been attending school in neighboring Monroe, which renovated a previously closed elementary school for the Newtown children after the shooting. The new school will serve students from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.

As for the student population, there will be about 390 students enrolled this fall and 70 of those, all now fourth-graders, were students at the old school when the shooting occurred, Erardi said. About 35 of them were in the building at the time, he said, attending the morning kindergarten session.

Fortunately, None of them witnessed the shootings, which were heard throughout the school, prompting students to hide where they could in their classrooms until the building was cleared by police. The shooting occurred before the afternoon kindergarten session. Erardi also said that because of retirements and transfers, about 60 percent of the staff members from
the original Sandy Hook are still with the school and the school district will provide those students and staff with special resources to help cope with the return and added that a three-year, $7.1 million grant to fund added mental health professionals has expired. But grants from charities will cover those costs.

As for a memorial to those 20 students and six educators that died that day, there will not not have a prominent memorial to the Sandy Hook victims and Erardi declined to say whether they will be remembered in some other way. He told the Courant “I’m going to pass on answering that, because it involves the conversations I’ve had with the impacted families and those will always remain confidential.” Llodra said the town is still deciding on a permanent memorial. “That will not be on this site, there is nothing subtle that you missed,” Llodra said.

While most of America’s school children are dreading the start of school, there are some that are excited to see their friends and new teachers, 20 young souls will never get to have that experience again. They will never have the chance to have recess, swap lunches, play, learn, laugh and exchange Christmas or Valentines Day cards. They are gone, wiped off the planet by a madman that decided to promote his own agenda. I wouldn’t blame anyone at Sandy Hook Elementary School if Adam Lanza’s name was never uttered again. He doesn’t deserve it. He deserves to be scorned forever. Adam Lanza could have surrendered and at the very least, stand trial for his actions. He chose the coward’s way out.

August 29th falls on a Monday, a week before Labor Day. While students prepare for that day to start the learning process all over and teachers and staff prepare for a year of learning, laughter and fun, let’s not forget the ones that died, the ones that were minding their own business, getting ready to learn while most of America was starting their school day in the Eastern and Central time zones.

In one classroom, a refrigerator magnet reads “We are Newtown, we choose love.”

Adam Lanza though he destroyed Sandy Hook. In the end, Adam Lanza failed and did so miserably. The remaining students, faculty, staff, nation and community rallied around their school.

They chose to rise from the ashes and rebuild.

They chose to be butterflies.

Christmas came.

Christmas went.

The gifts were opened, the toys played with over and over again until either the batteries died or they were broken.

For 20 families in Newtown, Connecticut, there were 20 less children playing with toys. 20 less children filled with joy and glee over the gift they had been writing Santa to and bugging their parents about. 20 less little angels trying to get peeks at Santa to see if he’s real and the reindeer fly.

December 14 of 2012 for some of us was just another school day. It marked the one week period to Christmas break. It was a normal day for some until a madman came in and destroyed the peace and quiet of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

On that day, 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza terrorized the town 49 miles south of Hartford, with a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle — killing 20 schoolchildren, six school staffers, his mother and himself. The town’s quiet downtown Main Street has been stripped of any ribbons, memorials and mementos of that horrible day.

Adam Lanza was no Santa Claus that day. Adam Lanza was more like the Grinch and Scrooge rolled into one. But unlike Lanza, even the Grinch and Scrooge had a heart and soul and knew that their actions were wrong and chose to make the change. They chose to listen to their better angels. Adam Lanza? He did not.

Few memories are left of that day. The house where Lanza started his murder spree when he shot and killed his mother is gone. Torn down, never to rise again. However, there is hope and like the mythical bird the Phoenix, on the site of the Sandy Hook Elementary school, a new elementary is rising where the old one was knocked down. After becoming a crime scene, the old Sandy Hook Elementary was razed in 2013 and last week construction workers were building a new school on the same Dickinson Drive property. The new building is rising near where the old one stood but not in its exact footprint — the plan is to leave the tragic site as green space. The flagpole from the old school will be the only relic of the place where the attack happened.

“No one is going to forget what happened,” said George Marnelakis, who owns the Blue Colony Diner in town. He told the Hartford Courant, “We don’t need reminders. I don’t think anyone wants to talk about it. The families want to heal.” One of Newtown’s few markers for those lost three years ago is an angel statue standing near St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, where many of the funerals were held.

Retired Newtown Police Officer Mike Brokaw, 60, recently took a minute to reflect in front of the small monument, known as the “Angel of Hope.” Someone had placed white flowers in the angel’s outstretched hands. “I remember when the call came in. I ran over there,” he said. “It was a hard thing to even fathom. It was an unbelievable scenario.”

While 20 children died, let’s not forget the six adults at the school that tried to save the children that were in their care. They took the term “in loco parentis” to the highest of heights, standing up to Lanza and dying in their efforts to save those that were injured and keep the death toll down.

In a few days or so, schools will reopen for the second half of the school year. A few days after that will be MLK Day, then Valentine’s Day, then Spring, Easter and the last day of school. For some, when that last day of school comes, children will leave and enjoy their Summers off. That will not be the case for the 20 that died that Friday morning in Newton. They were innocent victims that probably didn’t know Adam Lanza from any other adult that walked through that school.

20 fewer children and six fewer adults celebrated Christmas on this Earth December 25th in Newtown, Connecticut. Adam Lanza’s actions that day if nothing else should tell us that it is time that we have a discussion about gun control, even if it means that one side would have to be taken to the table kicking and screaming. This was no hoax, it wasn’t staged and there wasn’t a director yelling “cut” a the end. It was real. Let me say it again, it was REAL and people that didn’t need to die or deserve to die did so. It’s time that the NRA join the rest of us in the real world and take some form of responsibility, not washing their hands like Pilate.

This is not about taking guns away from those that purchase them legally, it’s about keeping them out of the hands of those that don’t need or deserve them.

Adam Lanza was irresponsible that morning. He knew right from wrong and chose wrong. Adam Lanza could have faced justice and probably would have been treated fairly. He probably would have been punished but he would have been treated fairly. Instead, Adam Lanza chose to take himself out by shooting and eventually killing himself.

Newton continues to move on. What happened cannot be undone. You can’t un-ring a bell, as the saying goes. Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn, they will find comfort.” For the 20 children and six adults that died that December morning, they celebrated Christmas in Heaven with the angels.

Like the scene in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” there were empty chairs. Those 20 children will never grow up and have the experience of seeing their own children get up on Christmas morning. Adam Lanza may have taken the physical and he may have taken the emotional but he failed at taking the spirit of Christmas. Adam Lanza’s name hopefully will never be uttered again in that town, unless a swear word follows it. He deserves our scorn and anger.

God bless us, everyone.

He was a non-conformist, a quitter on life that turned his hatred into murder against those that had done him no harm. James Holmes caused mayhem was an angry quitter who gave up on life and killed 12 people, fueled by that hatred. He was found guilty by a jury of his peers last July and would eventually be sentenced to life without parole in a Colorado prison.

Today in an Aurora, Colorado courtroom, in the same courtroom that saw his murder trial play out like an movie, Superior Court Judge Carlos A. Samor, Jr. made it official.

Life without the possibilty of parole for the 12 murders plus 3,000 additional years for attempted murder and an explosives conviction. James Holmes will draw his final breath behind bars. Holmes will never be able to touch or see freedom again, let alone smell it. While some wanted Holmes to die by lethal injection, Samour noted that the trial was fair, even if some were upset that he would not be killed by the state.

“I believe in the system,” Samour said. “I said that before and I’ll say it again. I believe in the system.”

According to the Associated Press and KUSA-TV, Samour first spent more than half an hour defending the integrity of the justice system and disputing complaints that the trial was a waste of time and noted the proceedings, while gave family members an opportunity to tell the world about their slain loved ones and provided survivors the chance to talk about their ordeal.

More than 100 victims and survivors testified this week about the searing physical and emotional scars the 2012 shooting has left.

Holmes’ mother, Arlene, was the final witness to take the lectern Tuesday. She said her son feels remorse for his deadly attack on a Colorado movie theater. She said his mental illness and medications make it hard for him to express it.

“We know that is very, very hard for people to see,” she testified. “We cannot feel the depths of your pain. We can only listen to everything you have expressed, and we pray for you. … We are very sorry this tragedy happened and sorry everyone has suffered so much.”

To the end, Holmes’ state-appointed attorneys blamed the massacre on his schizophrenia and psychotic delusions, tellng the world that their client was was obsessed with the idea of mass killing since childhood, pursuing neuroscience in an effort to find out what was wrong with his brain.

Prosecutors pointed both to Holmes’ elaborate planning for the attack and his refusal to divulge to anyone — family, friends, psychiatrists — that he was thinking, and planning murder.

Holmes stockpiled guns and ammunition and mapped out the Aurora theater complex to determine which auditorium would allow for the most casualties and even went so far as to calculate police response times.

Defense attorney Daniel King said Tuesday Holmes will not appeal his conviction, sparing victims the possibility of another emotionally wrenching trial.

Holmes’ sentencing hearing was largely symbolic but gave scores of victims an unprecedented chance to vent their feelings to the judge. They told him of flashbacks and nightmares, of relentless survivor’s guilt and enduring physical pain.

James Holmes planned his shooting spree, planning it ever so carefully, like a surgeon making sure he or she made the right incision in the right spot. His actions caused death, chaos and sadness and in the end, 12 people are dead and hundreds were injured because of his actions. James Holmes cared only for himself. James Holmes fed his ego with his hatred, playing by his own rules. In the end, a jury of his peers said “we will separate you from society for your actions and punish you for them.”

James Holmes will probably spend the rest of his days in a cell 23 hours a day with one hour of exercise. He will probably eat his meals in that cell, not having any contact with any other human being aside from his attorney and guards, will grow old behind bars and will draw his last breath behind those bars. His punishment will be banishment from society and will never know love or joy.

James Holmes chose to play by his own rules and then tried to fake insanity. A jury said, “no, you knew what you were doing was wrong and we don’t believe you.” James Holmes will draw his final breath behind bars and when that time comes, there will probably be no tears shed. He will get a mention in the media and mourned by his family but nothing more. His flame will be put out. The tribe has spoken.

James Holmes will never know what freedom looks like again. A monster has been sent away, never to cause trouble for the community that he tortured by his actions and hatred. The monster has been dealt with. He will never harm anyone else again.

In the end, it wasn’t a perfect trial. It wasn’t the verdict that some had hoped for. But in the end, in the grand scheme of things, it was a just trial.

James Holmes will never draw breath again as a free man. James Holmes will spend the rest of his days on Earth in a Colorado prison. The 27-year old Holmes, who killed 12 people and injured 58 others during a shooting rampage at an opening night screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado.

He had already been found guilty of the crimes that took place that July evening but the same jury that convicted him could not agree on a punishment. The options were death by lethal injection or life without  parole in prison. Even his defense team offered the idea of life without parole to the state, who turned the idea down and so the trial took place.

In the end, it was life that won. James Holmes will draw his last breath in a prison cell, away from society, away from the people that he harmed. While there were some that wanted him to die, others wanted nature to run its course. The one that wanted nature to win will get their wish. Had he been sentenced to death, it would have been years before he would even be moved to death row, let alone be ready to be executed. Recent history records only one execution in Colorado since 1967, suggesting Holmes had a very good chance of dying of other causes — or having his sentence revised for legal reasons and the only person put to death in recent decades, Gary Davis in 1997, had opposed further appeals.

Holmes’ crime was not just evil, it was sickening. 12 people are dead and those people will never be with their families for holidays, vacations, weddings and other special events. He had some mental health issues that needed to be addressed and those issues still need to be addressed now.

Even though a jury of his peers had found him guilty of taking 12 lives, convicted last month of 24 counts of first-degree murder — two for each of the slain victims, the jury could not agree on whether the state of Colorado kills him or if God kills him. In the end, it was the Almighty that won and since the Almighty is the house, so to speak, like Vegas, the house always wins. The 12-member jury reached a decision after deliberating almost seven hours since late Thursday. As they walked back into the courtroom shortly after 5 p.m. Denver time (7 p.m. Eastern), they made no eye contact with anyone. Some had a grim face and some were ashen. Holmes stood with his hands in his pockets as Judge Carlos Samour read the sentencing verdicts. Pins could be heard dropping in the courtroom that day. The verdicts took 11 minutes to read and Holmes will have to wait to be officially sentenced and that will take place August 24-26.

For Holmes, justice is his execution, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler told the jury. Holmes admitted to his crimes and had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. told reporters outside the courthouse that he respects the outcome, even if he disagrees with it.

“As frustrated as I am at not achieving the result we wanted, those jurors did a hell of a job,” he said. “I am disappointed at the outcome, I’m not disappointed with the system. I still think death is justice for what that guy did but the system said otherwise.”

Brauchler said it was his fault that he couldn’t get a death penalty result for the families.

Holmes’ parents declined to speak to the media but issued a statement through an attorney.

“The Holmes family is unable to make any comment at this time other than to say that they are deeply sorry this has happened, and they are so sorry that the victims and families have suffered such tremendous loss,” Lisa Damiani said in a press statement.

At the time, Holmes reportedly held a “human capital” credo that killing people would add value to his life. “You take away life and your human capital is limitless,” Holmes said in a chat message to his then-girlfriend months before the massacre.

James Holmes is a monster that needed to be dealt with. In the end, a jury of 12 spoke for those that he killed and while they did agree that he should pay for his actions, they could not agree on the manner. In any case, the monster known as James Holmes will never be part of a society that he attempted to destroy. James Holmes will be locked in a cell, with time for exercise for one hour a day and will probably have his meals served to him in his cell. James Holmes will draw his last and final breath on this Earth behind bars. The monster is gone, never to be seen or heard from again.

We say good riddance.

The people of Aurora, Colorado had a monster on their hands. It was one of their own. James Dillon Holmes chose to take the law into his own hands on July 20, 2012, killing nine citizens and wounding over 70 that wanted nothing more than to watch a movie before the weekend started.

Holmes walked into the theater No. 9 screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” like other patrons. He then walked out through a rear door, which he left propped open. Just after midnight, some 18 minutes after the movie “The Dark Knight” began, he returned wearing a ballistic helmet, a gas mask, black gloves and protective gear for his legs, throat and groin.

A tear gas canister exploded in the theater, then gunfire erupted from an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least one .40 caliber handgun. The shooting stopped with Holmes’ arrest outside the theater about seven minutes after the first 911 calls were made to police. Police had another problem on their hands. In his apartment, there were several explosive devices that were set as booby traps if law enforcement tried to enter. Thankfully, the apartment complex was evacuated and the explosives were taken out of commisson.

It took almost four years to bring the monster to trial but the townspeople got what they wanted and deserved. Nine people had died at his hands and their families and friends seeked justice. In a trial that took all of May, June and July, jurors with ties to Columbine listened to both sides present their case.

“The evidence is clear that he could not control his thoughts, … he could not control his actions and he could not control his perceptions,” defense attorney Dan King said during closing arguments. They admitted that his actions were wrong but begged the jury to spare his client’s life.

Prosecutors — who called more than 200 witnesses to the stand, among them investigators, students who knew Holmes and his ex-girlfriend — insisted the shooter knew well what he was doing. He acted deliberately to deliver pain and his mental issues shouldn’t excuse him from paying the price, they argued.

“Look at the evidence, then hold this man accountable,” Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said in his closing argument. “Reject this claim that he didn’t know right from wrong when he murdered those people and tried to kill the others. … That guy was sane beyond a reasonable doubt and he needs to be held accountable for what he did.”

Jurors reached a verdict Thursday and reached in almost 12½ hours with the jury starting deliberations Wednesday morning. In the end, it was justice that won that Thursday afternoon in Aurora, 15 miles outside Denver. 165 charges.

165 guilty verdicts. It was as if they had hit a homer with the bases loaded, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the home team trailing.

In 2013, the prosecution signaled it would seek the death penalty. They may very well get that wish.

The shooter’s parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, were regulars in court during their son’s trial and while they did not speak to the media, they have written two open letters and published a prayer book that detailed the family’s struggle, while pleading for his life to be spared. In one of those letters that appeared in the Denver Post in December 2014, the couple wrote “We have spent every moment for more than two years thinking about those who were injured, and the families and friends of the deceased who were killed, in the theater shooting in Aurora. “We are always praying for everyone in Aurora. We wish that July 20, 2012, never happened.” While they don’t deny that their son had a hand in the murders, they also said they didn’t think he should have been put on trial or even convicted and possibly dying in prison, given his mental state.

“James (Holmes) is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,” his parents wrote. “We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill.” Had he not been found guilty by reason of insanity (or mental defect, as it is called in most states), he would have been sentenced to the state hospital in Pueblo until doctors deem him safe to leave. With the guilty verdicts, the trial will enter a sentencing phase in which the jury must decide between life in prison or the death penalty.
According to Dr. Max Watchtel, Psychologist for KUSA-TV, there will be relief and anger.

Relief. Relief that the jury rejected the defense’s claim that the shooter was insane.

On Wednesday, the jury will begin hearing arguments from the prosecution and defense on the sentence they should impose—their options are life in prison without parole and the death penalty.

Jurors will hear the prosecutors point out how heinous and deplorable the shooter’s actions were on the night of July 20, 2012 and how he deserves death.

From defense attorneys, jurors will hear a very different story. They will hear tales of a normal childhood, friends in college and awards won. They will hear about the mental illness that gripped the shooter and how his life should be spared because of that uncontrollable illness.

And then, jurors will hear from the victims. This is where the anger may come into play.

They have already heard stories from victims about their experiences in the theater and the wounds they sustained. But in the trial phase, those stories were limited for a number of legal reasons.

During the sentencing phase, victims will be allowed to talk about the impact the shooting has had on their lives over the last three years: the nightmares, the multiple surgeries, the broken relationships, the isolation. No punches will be pulled. Emotions will be as raw as a carrot pulled from the Earth. Tears will be shed and those that lost loved ones could direct that anger toward Holmes. To quote the Episcopalians, “no secrets will be hid.”

Dr. Wachtel said that for the jurors who have already heard months of emotional testimony, the next several weeks will be grueling. Many jurors who go through a capital-murder trial develop mental illnesses of their own, with depression and anxiety being the most common. They will be forced to listen to horrifying stories and they will be begged to have mercy for the man who caused that horror.

Despite the sentence they decide upon, the juror’s lives will be forever changed by their experience and they can add themselves to the list of victims of the Aurora theater shooting.

Jonathan Blunk, Alexander Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Thomas Larimer, Matthew McQuinn, Alex Sullivan, Alexander Teves, Rebecca Ann Wingo, Medek and the youngest victim, Moser-Sullivan. They will never come back to us, short of the ressurection. They are no longer with us on this Earth and thusly, cannot speak to us. The 12 jurors that heard evidence and did not buy the defense’s notion of insanity spoke for them. They spoke loudly. They spoke clearly. They spoke 165 times in a voice that was strong and clarion.

James Holmes acted as though we as judge and jury. On that night July night in a theatre in Aurora, he acted as executioner. The people of Arapahoe County saw it differently. 165 charges. 165 verdicts. The jury batted 1.000 and you can’t get any better than that.

This week, Holmes will learn his sentence as the jury will decide if he dies a natural death and leave things in God’s hands or they bypass the Almighty and put a needle in his arm. Even with the death penalty on the table and assuming that all 12 jurors agree that he should die by lethal injection, it will be years if not decades before the executioner gets his (or her) hands on him. We can be certain of one thing and that James Holmes will never draw breath as a free man.

James Holmes tried to change his looks during the trial. James Holmes tried to fake insanity. James Holmes failed and failed miserably. 165 counts. 165 guilty verdicts. Major EPIC fail. James Holmes will return to the same courtroom that convicted him and will learn if he draws his last breath behind bars or the executioner get his (or her) hands on him.

The people of Aurora and Arapaho County spoke loudly and clearly. They not only spoke for the nine victims that could not, they spoke for the community and the 70 that were wounded. They will get a chance to speak again this week with the penalty phase. James Holmes could have listened to his better angels that night in July. He chose to ignore them completely. He knew right from wrong and his actions took nine lives and cost him his freedom and could very well cost him his life.

The people of Aurora, Colorado had a monster on their hands and like in those old movies, they raised their torches and pitchforks and dealt with the monster. The monster known as James Holmes will never know freedom, let alone touch it. A jury of his peers said that he is accountable and will draw his final breath on this Earth behind bars. The bigger question is will he die at God’s hands or will the state of Colorado kill him.

Who will win that race?

It’s anyone’s guess.

The jurors and the charges

The twelve people who deliberated the case included nine women and three men with two having close ties to the 1999 Columbine shooting.

Juror 640: A white woman whose daughter is in the Army and whose son is in the Marines. She doesn’t watch the news, and is a union plumber.

Juror 17: White woman in her 40s or 50s who works as a lawyer and is a caregiver for her elderly parents.

Juror 329: White woman in her 20s who is a volunteer victims’ advocate in Aurora.

Juror 535: Middle-age white woman whose ex-husband works as a police officer. Her niece was in the cafeteria at Columbine High School the day of the shooting.

Juror 87: Middle-age white woman who says her son is a drug addict and who has struggled with depression in the past.

Juror 118: White woman and physicist with degrees in psychology and mathematics. Competitive shooter.

Juror 378: White woman in her 50s who worked as a paramedic transporting mentally ill patients.

Juror 155: Middle-age white man in his 50s who was living in California when the shooting happened. He said he doesn’t know much about the case.

Juror 527: White man in his 30s who works as a store manager at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Juror 737: White man in his 20s or 30s who was in Columbine High School during the shooting. He says the perpetrators were his good friends until eighth grade and that he went to prom with one of the victims. He wound up being the foreperson in the trial.

Juror 557: A middle-age white woman in her 30s or 40s. She says mental illness isn’t an excuse for committing a terrible crime.

Juror 311: A middle-age white woman who wanted to hear from Holmes’ parents.

The Charges

Counts 1 – 12
First-degree murder – after deliberation

•The full formal charge, which was read aloud in court is: “On or about 7/20/2012, James Eagan Holmes unlawfully, feloniously, after intent to cause the death of a person other than himself, caused the death of [VICTIM]; in violation of section 18-3-102(1)(a), C.R.S.”
•This is the first of two theories of murder being charged. It means he planned to kill the victim, then he did.

Counts 13 – 24
First-degree murder – extreme indifference

•This is the second of two theories of murder being charged. In layman’s terms, it means he maliciously did something that could kill a person, and then he killed a person.
•The full formal charge, which was read aloud in court is: “On or about 7/20/2012, James Eagan Holmes unlawfully and feloniously, under circumstances evidencing an attitude of universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life generally, knowingly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death to persons other than himself, and thereby caused the death of [VICTIM]; in violation of section 18-3-102(1)(d), C.R.S.”

Counts 25 – 94
Attempted first-degree murder – after deliberation
•Similar to the murder charges, one of two theories. This one similar to counts 1-12.
•One charge for each of the 70 injured victims.

Counts 95 – 164

•Similar to the murder charges, one of two theories. This one similar to counts 13-24.
•One charge for each of the 70 injured victims.

Count 165
Possession of an explosive or incendiary device
•This charge stems from Holmes booby-trapping his apartment with an elaborate setup of explosive material.

While most schools have already started and others will start after Labor Day, a letter was written to teachers in Sandy Hook. It wasn’t just any letter. It was a letter written by the mother of one of the young victims. It was a letter that needs to be read by everyone.

Nebla Marquez-Greenhad is the mother of two children that attended Sandy Hook Elementary; they were both present the day of the shooting, but tragically her daughter Ana Grace was killed in the massacre. Her letter, which was posted on the Education Week website, is so powerful. It goes out to all teachers but anyone that works with children, whether they’re teachers, paraprofessionals, volunteers, coaches, et all as well as the gun right zealots need to read this.

Here is the entire letter, courtesy of the Education Week website.

“As another school year begins and old routines settle back into place, I wanted to share my story in honor of the teachers everywhere who care for our children.  

I lost my 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace on December 14, 2012, in the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My son, who was in the building and heard the shooting, survived.  

While waiting in the firehouse that day to hear the official news that our daughter was dead, my husband and I made promises to ourselves, to each other and to our son. We promised to face the future with courage, faith and love.

As teachers and school employees begin this new year, my wish for you is that same courage, faith and love.

It takes guts to be a teacher. Six brave women gave their lives trying to protect their students at Sandy Hook. Other teachers were forced to run from the building, stepping over the bodies of their friends and colleagues and they came right back to work.

When I asked my son’s teacher why she returned, she responded, “Because they are my kids. And my students need me now more than ever.” She sent daily updates on my son’s progress, from his behavior to what he’d eaten for lunch. And four months later, when my son finally smiled one day after school, I asked him about it. His response? “Mom. My teacher is so funny. I had an epic day.”

While I pray you will never find yourself in the position of the teachers at Sandy Hook, your courage will support students like my son, who have lived through traumas no child should have to.

Your courage will support students who are left out and overlooked, like the isolated young man who killed my daughter. At some point he was a young, impressionable student, often sitting all alone at school. You will have kids facing long odds for whom your smile, your encouraging word, and your willingness to go the extra mile will provide the comfort and security they need to try again tomorrow.  

When you Google “hero,” there should be a picture of a principal, a school lunch worker, a custodian, a reading specialist, a teacher or a bus monitor. Real heroes don’t wear capes. They work in America’s schools.  

Being courageous requires faith. It took faith to go back to work at Sandy Hook after the shooting. Nobody had the answers or knew what would come tomorrow but they just kept going. Every opportunity you have to create welcoming environments in our schools where parents and students feel connected counts.
Have faith that your hard work is having a profound impact on your students. Of the 15,000 personal letters I received after the shooting, only one stays at my bedside. It’s from my high school English teacher, Robert Buckley.  

But you can’t be courageous or step out on faith without a deep love for what you do.  

Parents are sending their precious children to you this fall. Some will come fully prepared, and others not. They will come fed and with empty bellies. They will come from intact homes and fractured ones. Love them all.  

When my son returned to school in January, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Imagine the difficulty in sending your surviving child into a classroom when you lost your baby in a school shooting. We sent him because we didn’t want him to be afraid.

We sent him because we wanted him to understand that while our lives would never be the same, our lives still needed to move forward. 

According to the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health, nearly half of America’s children will have suffered at least one childhood trauma before the age of 18. They need your love.  

A few weeks before the shooting, Ana Grace and I shared a special morning. Lunches were packed and clothes were picked out the night before, so we had extra time to snuggle. And while I lay in bed with my beautiful caramel princess, she sensed that I was distracted and asked, “What’s the matter, Mom?” I remember saying to her, “Nothing, baby. It’s just work.” She looked at me for a very long time with a thoughtful stare, then she told me, “Don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry, Mom.”  

As you begin this school year, remember Ana Grace. Walk with courage, with faith, and with love. And don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry.”  

This school year, pray for the teachers, the children and the parents. Keep everyone in your thoughts and may God protect them. Life and love are precious gifts; never take them for granted. 

6-year old Ana Grace will never get to read that letter, play with her classmates on the playground or be in a Christmas pagent. Her short life on this Earth came to a tragic end the week before Christmas when a gunman with nothing on his agenda but anger and hate came to her school and shot 26 people, of which 20 were her classmates and six teachers. There needs to be a civil and serious dialouge about guns and school violence. 20 kids will never know the experience of meeting new teachers and classmates, they’ll never get to trade lunches in the lunchrooms, go to recess or fingerpaint. A madman that pulled the trigger will never face justice because he chose to be a coward and take himself out of the picture.

While there are some of us that are saying that guns are bad, it’s not the gun that is the problem. It’s the person that pulls the trigger that is the problem. We need to work together to strenghten the laws that are on the books, not weaken them. The right to own a gun is not the issue. The issue is that there are those that do not deserve to have a weapon, due to a criminal record, mental instablity or a dishonest gun salesman that put money over lives and doesn’t do the background checks.

26 lives lost. Gone. Never to walk this Earth again. The best thing we as a community can do is to make sure our children are safe and if it means changing a law that benefits the living while making sure that law-abiding gun owners have their rights protected, then so be it. It’s not about taking away guns. It’s about keeping them out of the hands of those that don’t deserve or need them.

As children walk into their schools, whether they are public, private or parochial this Fall, let’s remember those that will not walk into a school because of gun violence, including those in Sandy Hook and hope they walk out of them better than we dropped them off in the morning, fed, educated, loved.

And safe.