Local School Shooting Threat Derailed

Sawyer+at+court+with+his+lawyer+last+Friday.+
Sawyer at court with his lawyer last Friday.

Sawyer at court with his lawyer last Friday.

Sawyer at court with his lawyer last Friday.

By AMELIA POLLARD

MIDDLEBURY – Until last week, Vermont had evaded the fear of school shootings that have swept the nation.

The state was put to the test last Thursday after two separate tips reached Rutland County authorities regarding a teenager, 18, who was thought to pose a dire threat to the community. A young woman from Poughkeepsie, NY, contacted police after receiving messages from the teen, who is her, claiming he wanted to commit a shooting at a high school 30 miles south of Middlebury. Two days later, a parent also contacted authorities regarding suspicious behavior.

The eighteen-year-old was Jack Sawyer. In the span of only a few days, Sawyer was searched, arrested, arraigned on multiple charges of attempted aggravated murder and held without bail. Sawyer’s comprehensive plan to kill students at Fair Haven Union High School in Fair Haven, Vt., was thwarted in a matter of days through the swift action by local officials.

Sawyer’s life had been unstable in the past few years. After being kicked out of the local public school, he was being treated at a resident facility in Maine for the past year for anxiety and depression. According to Sawyer’s father, David Sawyer, he had checked himself out of the facility and returned to Vermont to seek a job on Feb. 9.

The disturbing affidavit written by Det. Sgt. Todd Wilkins last week detailed the events leading up to Sawyer’s arrest. On Feb. 13, Sawyer purchased a shotgun from Dick’s Sporting Goods. Two days later, Chief William Humphries was contacted by the Duchess County Sherriff’s Department regarding text messages Sawyer had exchanged with a young woman from Poughkeepsie, NY.

In the exchange, the woman questioned why Sawyer had returned to Vermont. “Back in VT I’m trying to start fresh,” Sawyer replied. “Just a few days ago I was still plotting on shooting up my old high school so it’s not like I really wanted a future anyways.”

The woman also was the one to notify Sawyer of the Florida high school shooting. Sawyer had been recently fixated on the 1999 Columbine shooting, and was reported by Det. Sgt. Wilkins to have been reading about it recently. “That’s fantastic. 100% support it,” Sawyer wrote in response to the massacre in Florida.   

After reviewing the messages, Det. Sgt. Henry Alberico and Wilkins located Sawyer in Poultney, Vt. The two interviewed the teenager thoroughly, and it became evident how substantial his plan to kill students at Fair Haven High School was. Through the interview, the two learned of      Sawyer’s aspirations to purchase an AR-15 and 9 mm Glock (both of which he could legally purchase in Vermont), the journal he had started months earlier entitled “Journal of an Active Shooter,” and that he simply wanted to kill “as many as [he could] get.”

This scare came only days after the school shooting on Feb. 14, in which 17 people were killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Immediately after the Florida rampage, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, stood by the existing gun laws, which are some of the weakest in the nation. The was given an “F” grade by the Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, named for the former Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously injured in a mass shooting in 2011. 

For Scott, it took the threat of a school shooting in Fair Haven to reconsider the question of gun legislation, although he declined to offer any specific changes that he was open to. He expressed his shift in stance at a press conference last Friday. “If we are at a point when we put our kids on a bus and send them to school without being able to guarantee their safety, who are we?” Scott said at the news conference. “I need to be open-minded, objective and at least consider anything that will protect our kids.”

Since the fall, Senator Dick Sears, a Democrat from Bennington, has worked on a senate bill that would create a process to remove guns from citizens who appear to be a threat to themselves or others: those like Sawyer. For the next two weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee will work on bringing the bill to a vote.

Gun Owners of Vermont, a group that endorsed Gov. Scott in the 2016 election, remains adamant that there be no strengthening of gun laws in the state. Ed Cutler, vice president of the group, told the Burlington Free Press that he suspected Scott was yielding to political pressure. “I hope he comes to realize that we’re his core base,” he told the paper.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


About the Writer
AMELIA POLLARD, Digital Director

Amelia Pollard '20.5 is the digital director.

She previously served as senior local editor, local editor, and staff writer.

Pollard is majoring in...

1 Comment

One Response to “Local School Shooting Threat Derailed”

  1. Clair on June 14th, 2018 4:45 am

    The definition used by Every Town for Gun Violence has always been clear to me. It is in right at the top of the text portion of their School Shootings page. Why do you hold them to a standard of repeatedly clarifying on Twitter when the information isn’t hidden at all? I agree that maybe the suicide could be questioned because the schools was closed, and therefor perhaps should not be considered a school zone. But a shooting in the parking lot at a basketball game is a School Shooting. A shooting at a sorority event is a School Shooting by any reasonable standard. A officer accidentally discharging his weapon on school grounds is a School Shooting. I can go on and on. Maybe the problem lies in the use of the word “shooting.” I take it to mean a firearm shot a round. Maybe you take it to mean someone was shot. I don’t know, but I’m counting the number of times guns were on or near school grounds and fired. The term I as the writer at https://jetwriters.com use to describe that is “School Shooting.”




Navigate Left
  • Local School Shooting Threat Derailed

    Local

    Controversial Burlington Mural Prompts Debate Over City’s History

  • Local School Shooting Threat Derailed

    Local

    Community Joins Nation to Rally for Mueller

  • Local School Shooting Threat Derailed

    Local

    Rough Cut Latest to Close Doors

  • Local School Shooting Threat Derailed

    Local

    Meet the Farmers: Two Addison County Cattle Farmers Share Their Philosophy

  • Local School Shooting Threat Derailed

    Local

    Demonstrators Take Stand in Support of Mueller Investigation

  • Local School Shooting Threat Derailed

    Local

    Incumbent Wygmans Clings to 10-Vote Lead in State’s Attorney Race

  • Local School Shooting Threat Derailed

    Local

    Neighbors, Together Announces ‘Midd Money Match’ Program

  • Local School Shooting Threat Derailed

    Local

    Middlebury’s Hunters Reluctant to Advertise Their Hobby

  • Local School Shooting Threat Derailed

    Local

    O’Brien’s Hair Salon Trims its Last Locks

  • Local School Shooting Threat Derailed

    Local

    State’s Attorney Hosts Expungement Clinics for County Residents

Navigate Right
Middlebury College's only student-run newspaper.
Local School Shooting Threat Derailed