Let me start by saying that this isn’t a post about gun control, but it is about a school shooting. So, while  there may be little bits of my opinion in there, please don’t think it’s the take home message I am trying to leave you with.

Today, T.J. Lane, 18, was sentenced to 3 life sentences plus 25 years with no possibility of parole for the murders of 3 students at their high school (Lane did not attend the high school) as well as 2 counts of attempted murder, and felonious assault. He was 17 at the time of the shooting, and the fact spared him from the death sentence.

I think his life is an extreme example of what happens to a person who has no hope. From what I’ve read about his life, there’s never been the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” for this kid. As he grew up, he saw his dad go to jail for attempted murder, he had been arrested for violent acts himself multiple times. He attended a behavioral disorder school alternative (for good reason). He had serious mental problems. He had severe depression and hallucinations. I don’t present these facts to justify his actions; just to evidence my thoughts that his entire life, he’s never experienced hope.

His actions the day of the shooting and since further evidence the fact that this kid’s life was hopeless. Typically, school shooters have expressed reasons why the did it; they planned it extensively; shooting people has often been a way to retake control. This wasn’t the case for T.J. He has said multiple times that there was no reason, and that seems to fit the story. He wasn’t bullied, wasn’t well acquainted with the victims, in fact, it seems that he just decided on the fly to open fire while waiting for the bus. The one detail I question, that hasn’t had a real explanation put forward, is why he was carrying a handgun and a knife that day to begin with.

T.J. made sure he was convicted. Ohio law, where he was convicted, says that a child cannot be be charged as an adult if they don’t understand the charges, court procedures, participate in his defense, punishment if convicted, is mentally ill, or has an intellectual or developmental disability. He didn’t allow his lawyer to file the motion for a mental evaluation. In fact, he didn’t allow his lawyers to present any real defense. He plead guilty to all charges without attempting a plea deal.

The last bits of evidence that he lives with no hope occurred today at his sentencing hearing. After entering the court room he took off his outer shirt to reveal that his undershirt read “KILLER” in permanent marker. He was smiling as the judge announced his sentence. In the middle of the court appearance, he swung his chair around to face the victims’ parents, flipped them off, and said, “This hand that pulled the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory. Fuck all of you.” It seems obvious to me that he wanted to be sure he was in prison until he died. All of his actions, from the shooting until today, suggest that was his goal.

This story has intrigued me since the story first broke last February. School shootings in general have always held an interest to me. Perhaps it has to do with the hit list/safe list that my name was written on in 8th grade. Perhaps it has to do with the kid that I sat next to in Speech class in 10th grade that was removed from class by police because he had a gun in his backpack. Perhaps it’s because I grew up during the “heyday” of school shootings. Perhaps it’s just because I became friends with several people in middle/high school of whose stories he reminds me. Perhaps it’s because there are people I know today of whom he reminds me. Whatever the reason, this case stood out to me.

As I read the news stories this afternoon about his final actions in court, and perhaps joy, that he would be in prison until the day he dies, I couldn’t help but wonder why! Why would anyone want to be jail? Why would anyone work so hard to ensure that they would be? He clearly didn’t want to die, or he would have killed himself… he would be on suicide watch. He wants to live, but he wants to live in prison. Why?

Then it hit me. He has no hope. The world isn’t predictable. Sometimes, it flat out sucks. But jail is different. It’s the same every day… occasionally people change, but that’s it. You don’t have to worry about making decisions. You don’t have to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There doesn’t have to be one. Everything is decided, everything stays the same. It’s a shame that someone can feel that the best, safest place for them is jail — but it seems to be the most reasonable explanation.

I am beyond grateful that I have something more to hope for. I don’t know how anyone can function without hope for more. Hope for something past this world. Hope that good will win. Hope that there is more to life than this; more than the here and now. I take pity this kid. Not because he was treated too harshly, not because he’s just a kid. I take pity on him because he’s got not hope. Except for an act from God,  he will go his entire life without experiencing true hope. Perhaps one day his eyes will be opened and he won’t have to experience hopelessness for eternity.

Anyone else who’s familiar with the case care to give me your input?

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