Vermont State Police detectives say a tip from a concerned mother and her child helped lead to an arrest that thwarted a threatened school massacre at Fair Haven Union High School.
A defense attorney for Jack Sawyer, 18, a former Fair Haven student from Poultney, entered not guilty pleas to several felony charges, including accusations of attempted murder.
Relief swept over Fair Haven and surrounding communities that send students to FHUHS Friday, upon hearing from the school district that there was no current threat to students or staff following the arrest.
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“We’re just thankful it was nipped in the bud real quick,” said John Laramie of Fair Haven.
Investigators wrote in paperwork filed with the court that Sawyer recently bought a shotgun and ammo, and kept a list of current and former Fair Haven students, which he titled “Top of the should have died list.”
Rutland County’s elected head prosecutor praised a family in New York’s Dutchess County, who court paperwork shows reported Facebook messages from Sawyer in which he wrote about “shooting up my old high school.”
“I would encourage the public to trust your gut and make that phone call to law enforcement,” advised Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy. “And let law enforcement figure out if this is a threat or not.”
According to the police affidavit, Sawyer said of this week’s school killings in Florida, “That’s fantastic — 100% support it.”
After entering not guilty pleas to several charges of attempted murder, the 18-year-old was ordered jailed without bail until at least his next hearing.
“I hope it makes other people not want to do that, because it’s wrong,” said June McLaughlin of Fair Haven. “You don’t go out and hurt people for no reason at all. It’s bad enough with adults, but with kids? That’s worse.”
Detectives described in court paperwork how the suspect was apparently fascinated with cases of school violence, including in Columbine, Colorado.
Police wrote in the affidavit that he recently returned to Vermont from Maine, where he was at a treatment facility for anxiety and depression issues.
“I think we need to do a huge look at mental health,” Todd Shorey of Fair Haven said, describing a conversation he wants to see happen broadly in the U.S. and in Vermont. “It’s time to start looking into what the root problem is, and that’s, you know, people’s health.”
Vermont’s Republican governor said Friday he fiercely supports the constitutional right to bear arms, but called for far-reaching discussions on improving mental health treatment and even possible policy changes around who should or should not have access to guns.
“This situation in Fair Haven has jolted me,” said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont. “I’m hopeful every Vermonter—from the most anti-gun advocates, to the strongest Second Amendment supporters—will join in the responsible discussion we must have about ways to reduce violence.”
The school district said in a letter to parents that it will make counseling services available to Fair Haven Union High School students next week, during school break.
Vermont State Police officials said their investigation is still ongoing. Detectives want to hear from anyone who may have recently had in-person or online communication with Jack Sawyer.