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Australia’s First School Shooting Leads To Teen’s Three-Year Detention

A Perth teenager has been sentenced to three years in juvenile detention for what is believed to be Australia’s inaugural school shooting. The 15-year-old from Perth fired three shots with two rifles at Atlantis Beach Baptist College last May. Staff and students were left cowering in cupboards and under desks before police eventually arrested him.

The judge who sentenced him acknowledged that “good luck” had “prevented a tragic outcome.” Thankfully, no one was hurt in the shooting, which is considered the first of its kind in Australia. Lawyers and Perth Children’s Court Judge Hylton Quail found no record of a similar case anywhere in the nation.

Simon Freitag, the boy’s lawyer, appealed to Judge Quail for a noncustodial term, citing the teenager’s depression and undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder. Freitag mentioned the boy’s despondency due to a failed relationship and rumors being spread about him.

Two of the shots fired struck buildings as the school, located in Perth’s northern suburbs, went into lockdown. The students at the school range in age from six to 16. The boy called the police, expressing his initial intent to “kill people and myself,” but changed his mind, not wanting his siblings to be related to a killer. The police arrived and arrested him.

The teenager had taken two hunting rifles and ammunition from his father’s gun cabinet and driven to the college’s car park, where he opened fire on May 24, 2023. Local media reported a teacher telling police she had never been so scared; she texted her fiancé while in hiding to express her love.

State prosecutors recounted that one student “ran for his life,” and another lay down on the grass behind a backpack—a teacher who saw the student initially thought they had been shot.

During a plea hearing last week, the court learned that 18 days before the incident, the boy had searched the internet about school shootings, gun deaths, and the age of criminal responsibility in Western Australia. He queried phrases like “are there school shootings in Australia” and “what happens to mass murderers in Australia.”

On the social media app Discord, he discussed shooting guns at the school with a friend. The night before the incident, he warned the friend not to go to school, but the friend didn’t believe him, as he had not carried out past threats.

In December, he pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including endangering lives, discharging a firearm to cause fear, possessing firearms and ammunition, and driving without a license. Mr. Freitag, his lawyer, emphasized the significant fear and distress caused by the incident, stating, “I do need to say out loud the very obvious point that this has caused significant fear and distress.”

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