Testimony: Suspect in school shooting plot had raised red flags

RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) 18-year-old Jack Sawyer walked into Rutland court on Tuesday in handcuffs. His defense attorney asked a judge if they could be removed. They weren't.

First on the stand was Jason Rasco, the acting principal of Fair Haven Union High School.

“There were a number of what I would consider red flags,” Rasco said.

From him, we learned that Sawyer had raised red flags at the school in March of 2016 while researching a report on Columbine. The principal says teachers and students reported they were concerned. He says Sawyer had also started writing on social media under the name of one of the Columbine shooters.

“I said you know, there are some number of people that are nervous about your Facebook posts and things, and I think people are scared. To which he made a comment like ‘Good’ or ‘I'm glad’ and I went, whoa,” said Rasco.

He says he had conversations with Sawyer and based on those, the school began a threat assessment of Sawyer. The school resource officer testified that they looked at whether Sawyer had both the means and motivation to be a threat.

“Is this a potential threat for this school that we're going to look further into? Yes,” remarked Cpl. Scott Alkinburg, Fair Haven School Resource Officer.

At that point, Sawyer ran away to California and was later sent by his parents to Brattleboro Retreat and then to a treatment school in Maine. So he never returned to the school.

But the principal said earlier this month, dozens of students called out specifically because Sawyer was back in town.

“On February 15, 2018, how many students called out sick with sort of this knowledge that the defendant was back and possibly threatening the school again?” questioned Rutland State’s Attorney Rosemary Kennedy. Rasco replied, “I believe it was just over a quarter of the school, 38 students.”

We also heard several video clips from Sawyer's five-hour interview with police. In one clip, he admits to police that he was still angry with the school.

“That made it real for us that he was actually talking about the present and it was within the month,” said Sgt, Henry Alberico, Vt. State Police.

In another, they discussed alleged Facebook messages between Sawyer and a friend in which he called the Florida school shooting awesome. And in a third clip, he discusses with police the different guns he would use to carry out his plan.

“He has a plan in mind and he will fulfill it. He's patient and he would wait, even if it took 10 years,” said Alberico.

The evidence hearing will wrap up later this week. It is tentatively scheduled right now for Friday. In the meantime, Sawyer is being held behind bars without bail.