Jackson Township shooter wanted to be 'stain in American history'

JACKSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A Jackson Memorial Middle School student who fatally shot himself in a school bathroom intended to “conduct a school shooting and harm other individuals,” Jackson Police Chief Mark Brink said Thursday.

“Why he went back into the bathroom after he had come out holding the gun and then committed suicide we do not have an answer for, and I don’t know that we’ll ever have an answer for that,” Brink said at a press conference.

The 13-year-old student, Keith Simons, died last week from injuries he received after shooting himself Feb. 20 with a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle. The Summit County Medical Examiner’s office on Thursday ruled the death a suicide and said the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.

Before shooting himself, Simons rode a bus to the middle school with the rifle (obtained from home) hidden under his clothing. He carried a backpack filled with bottle rockets, a lighter, batteries, an aerosol can and about 80 rounds of ammunition for the rifle.

Once at school, Simons went directly to the bathroom. He left the bathroom, carrying the rifle. Four students in the hallway saw him, although they said they didn’t see the rifle. After going into the hallway, he returned to the bathroom and shot himself.

Brink said investigators still don’t know why Simons went back into the bathroom and took his own life.

“I think we should thank God every day whatever made him change his mind, he did change his mind,” Brink told reporters. “But I don’t know that we’ll ever have an answer to that question.”

Brink said investigators have talked to a number of students, including one who saw Simons in the bathroom.

Brink said both teens in the bathroom (Simons and the other student) “were aware of what the other was doing,” as the other went for help. “That young man immediately left the bathroom when he got the chance to and went and notified school officials of what was happening.”

Faculty members then found Simons in the bathroom following the shooting.

So far, the investigation has shown that Simons had an eight-step plan on his phone about an intended school shooting, Brink said. Simons had worked on the memo between Feb. 14 and Feb. 20, and his writing showed admiration for the Columbine High School shooters and said killing students would get him attention and a following.

Brink declined to detail the plan but did list some of the statements in a news release issued by the department.

“I’ve been planning this for a few weeks and thought about it a few months, I will never be forgotten. I’ll be a stain in American history … it’s going to be so (much) fun. They won’t expect a thing,” one statement read.

Another excerpt read “I’m going to die doing it, I hate those people, when they interview my parents and ask how they didn’t see the signs they should know it’s not them it’s me and it’s because of how I see the world… I’d hurt and destroy something bigger but my schools [sic] an easy target….”

Brink said the case remains under investigation. Police continue analyzing electronic devices and chasing tips. So far there is no evidence indicating that anyone knew what Simons planned before the incident occurred.

Brink said Jackson Township is a strong community and called on its residents to help.

“We need parents to be parents. We need them to lock up guns,” he said.

“We need to come together and we need to find solutions — not try to point fingers, not try to find fault,” Brink added. “We all have a responsibility in this. We all have something that we can do to make our schools safer and make our community safer. We need to do that.”

Jackson Local Schools Superintendent Christopher DiLoreto did not attend Thursday’s news conference but issued a statement thanking the police department and reiterating that there is a police presence in all Jackson schools. Brink said that DiLoreto opted to meet with his teachers while the press conference was being conducted.

Edd Pritchard and Alison Matas are reporters for The Canton (Ohio) Repository.