A high school teacher fired a gun and then barricaded himself inside a classroom Wednesday at Dalton High School in Georgia, police say. No students were shot. Jesse Randal Davidson, 53, was taken into custody by police and was also not injured during the incident, The Associated Press reports. He was inside a locked classroom with no students inside when he fired the gun, police said. A motive for the incident has not been released.
He goes by the name Randal Davidson, according to the school website and his Facebook profile.
Records show Davidson has been charged with aggravated assault with a gun, terroristic threats and acts, carrying a weapon in a school safety zone without a license, reckless conduct, disrupting public school and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He is being held without bail at the Whitfield County Jail.
Principal Steve Bartoo, who has worked at the school for 27 years, said he has known Davidson, who began teaching in 2004, for his entire career.
“Excellent teacher, well thought of in our building,” Bartoo said of Davidson at a press conference. He said the incident “absolutely” comes as a surprise to him. Bartoo was asked about rumors among students that Davidson had been having issues and said he was not aware of whether Davidson had been acting differently in recent weeks.
“As far as I know he was fit to be at work,” Bartoo said. “And I’m not aware of any current depression.”
Authorities said they are still investigating how the gun got onto campus. Bartoo said teachers are not allowed to have guns on campus. Police told CBS News that Davidson had a snub-nose .38 revolver handgun. Police said they do not believe Davidson wanted to harm students or staff.
Here’s what you need to know about Davidson and the incident:
1. Davidson, Who Had a History of Medical Episodes, Fired a Shot Through an Exterior Window & Was Barricaded Inside the Locked Classroom for About 30 Minutes, Police Say
Randal Davidson was locked in his classroom for about 30 minutes before he was taken into custody by police, The Associated Press reports. The incident began about 11:40 a.m., authorities said.
According to WGCL-TV, Davidson barricaded himself in the classroom and then fired a shot through an exterior window when the principal tried to unlock the door.
Steve Bartoo, the Dalton High School principal, said at a press conference that he got a call on his radio to respond to help an assistant principal.
“She mentioned to me that the teacher who was involved in this incident was not letting studnts into his classroom, so we got his students situated into another teacher’s classroom. She told me that he was telling people to go away and not come in, so I went to the classroom and I attempted to enter the classroom and he slammed the door,” Bartoo told reporters. “I didn’t get the door open very far, but he slammed the door and hollered ‘go away, don’t come in here.'”
Bartoo said Davidson also made some “nonsensical noises,” and Bartoo radioed for the school resource officer, who was not on the campus because he was dealing with an issue at the middle school campus. Bartoo called the officer and asked him to come back to the high school.
“I told our officer that (Davidson) just wasn’t making any sense, he wasn’t allowing into his classroom,” Bartoo said. “So, he was coming back to campus. I came again to knock on the door and I told him, ‘hey it’s me, it’s Steve, Steve Bartoo,’ and I put my key into the door and again he slammed the door before I could open it and he said ‘don’t come in here, I have a gun.'”
Bartoo said at that point he put the school into a threat lockdown.
“Shortly after that I heard a gunshot,” Bartoo said.
Police said Davidson surrendered after talking with the school resource officer.
“Our school resource officer has a close relationship with the staff at Dalton High School. Once he got back on scene from the junior high he responded up with the officers who were containing the room ,” Assistant Police Chief Cliff Cason said. “He was able to persuade him to come outside and surrender without causing harm to himself or making anyone else cause harm to himself. I’m very, very proud of this officer and everything he did to render this horrible situation safe.”
Students were evacuated from the school in the area where the incident took place. One student suffered an ankle injury during the chaos, Dalton Police said.
“I am just absolutely so proud and thankful of our faculty, our students, our police department and our police officers that responded to our school today,” Bartoo said. “I can’t thank our police department enough for what they did. I can’t thank our faculty enough for what they did. I saw a lot of brave kids and a lot of brave teachers today do a lot of brave acts. I appreciate them deeply, they did exactly what we train to do. If anything out of all this, that was good to see.”
Bartoo said within a “matter of minutes,” officers were at the scene. Students were taken to a safer location of the building.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of our kids and our teachers for making that happen in a very timely way,” Bartoo said.
The entire school was eventually evacuated by bus. The building was cleared by police, who remain on the scene to investigate the incident.
Bartoo said they have done a lockdown drill this semester.
He said, “it’s scary. Real scary. It took me a minute to collect my thoughts, particularly after I heard the gunshot. But you kinda go into a point where you do what you’re supposed to do and what you train to do. And that’s exactly what occurred.”
Davidson has a history of bizarre medical episodes both at school and outside of school, The Chattanoogan reports.
In March 2016, he went to the police department headquarters and said he wanted to confess to having someone killed. Davidson, who was accompanied by his wife, told detectives he had an Internet affair with a woman named Jacqueline Enrique who was the girlfriend of his adopted son, The Chattanoogan reports. According to the police report, he said the affair lasted a few weeks and then he told his wife about it. Davidson told detectives that the woman was pregnant with twins at the time and she was abusive to them and causing him problems after they were born. Davidson said he was approached by two friends who told him they would “take care of her for him<" and he agreed. The friends later told her that they had killed her. He was vague about the details, police said. Detectives were never able to locate a woman named Jacqueline Enrique.
During that incident he told police he was depressed, had been on several medications to treat that and had recently gotten out of the hospital, WXIA-TV reports. Police said in the report they found Davidson was “delusional or having something else that had occurred that is causing him to have these thoughts.” He was taken to the hospital for observation, “based on him thinking about hurting himself.”
In January 2017, Davidson was reported missing while at school. Police responded after Davidson told other staff members that he wasn’t feeling well and was going to leave for the remainder of the day. He was later found in the far east hallway of the school in an area far from where his classroom and department were located. When his wife later arrived to pick him up, he couldn’t be found. Officers responded, but also couldn’t find him.
Police said he was then spotted hours later walking on a street near the school. EMS responded and he was found to be sitting on a curb being held up by two staff members. Police said Davidson was conscious and didn’t appear to be in any type of physical distress, but an officer said he and others tried to speak with him, “but no amount of stimulus would draw a response from Davidson,” according to the Chattanoogan. He was then taken to the hospital.
2. He Is a Former Radio Journalist Who Became a Teacher After 9/11 Because He Wanted to Do Something He Found to Be More Fulfilling & Meaningful
Randal Davidson, who is originally from the Atlanta area, has been a teacher at Dalton High School since 2004, according to the school district’s website.
Davidson, who is married and has children and grandchildren, has lived in Dalton since 1995 and was originally a journalist at WBLJ AM Radio, covering sports and news, and doing play-by-play for high school football games. He alter worked at WYYU FM radio. Davidson was working during the terror attacks on 9/11 and provided radio updates. After that experience, he decided to change careers.
He was named the DHS STAR Teacher in 2012. He talked in an article on the school’s website about how he got into teaching because he “wanted to pursue something that would provide more fulfillment and meaning,” the school district wrote.
“I love history and I love reading—I’ve always been an information junkie. I’d taken college classes on and off for several years and had almost 2½ years of credits,” Davidson said in 2012. “I decided to pursue a degree in history and become a teacher. I left radio full-time and enrolled at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I continued to do the broadcast work for Dalton High School part-time and also took other part-time jobs to help support my family. I was married and had a child and it wasn’t easy. But it was worth it.”
After finishing his degree, Davidson applied to work at Dalton High School in 2004.
“They actually had me come in and audition—teach a class on the causes of World War II to the principal, department head, etc. Because of my broadcast experience, I was comfortable to talking in front of people so I just prepared my lesson and did it. I can still remember the excitement I had when Mr. (Phillip) Brown (former principal at DHS) called to offer me the job. I had to pull over on the side of the road because I was just overjoyed,” he said in 2012.
On social media, many current and former students have said that Davidson is a popular teacher who was well-liked by almost everyone. They have expressed dismay about the incident.
Principal Steve Bartoo said Wednesday at a press conference, “He’s a good teacher. I would be surprised with any of our teachers if that occurred, it’s not just him. Our teachers care about our kids, they love our kids, they take care of our kids and it’s certainly shocking, I think it would be shocking to any school principal if one of their staff members pulled a gun out and fired it.”
After winning the 2012 award, Davidson said his teaching style is to keep the students engaged.
“You know that teaching is 90 percent theater because you’ve got to capture a student’s attention before you can give them the information. I believe in making it a conversation—mix it up with stories, and tying something from 300 years ago to what happened on MTV last week—that makes it memorable.” Davidson said, adding that classroom management is a huge component to being successful. “I set high expectations and start out pretty strict. As students progress through the semester, I’m able to loosen up a bit.”
Davidson said he has found the fulfillment he was looking for when he changed careers.
“I tell my students I won’t be friends with them on Facebook while they are in school,” Davidson said in 2012. “But after graduation, I usually get about 50 friend requests from my former students. I had a former student call me recently while I was out to dinner because he wanted to talk through some ideas for a paper he had to write for a class at the University of Georgia. Hearing about their successes and watching them go on to great things is very rewarding for me.”
3. He Is Also the Play-by-Play Voice of the Football Team & Wrote a Book About the School’s Football History in 2012
Davidson is also the play-by-play voice of the school’s football team, according to the Dalton Public School district’s website.
In 2012, Davidson wrote a book about the Dalton High School football team’s history called Catamounts! The Glorious History of Dalton Football.
“Dalton has so much tradition that I didn’t know,” said Davidson said in 2012. “I just kept going back and going back until I found the football program began in 1924. … Football brought people together. It’s a fabric of the community.”
He has announced all the home and away football games for Dalton High School for more than 20 years. He also broadcasts basketball games and some baseball games.
“When I took the broadcast job at Dalton 17 years ago, someone told me that I could stay in Dalton for five years and then move on to something else, or I could stay 30 years and be a legend,” Davidson said in 2012. “I hope I have another 17 or so years left. Dalton is a unique place. I love the tradition behind Dalton High, and I feel like I stand on the shoulders of all the people who came before me. There is no better school anywhere. The teachers are really great professionals and the administration is incredible. I visit a lot of schools and I see how we compare. We have a culture that fosters student development. Our kids are the best.”
4. Davidson, Who Posted a Meme About the ‘Thoughts & Prayers’ Response to School Shootings After Parkland, Could Face Up to 42 Years in Prison
Randal Davidson questioned by police at the local Police Service Center after the incident, WGCL-TV reports. He was then taken to the Whitfield County Jail, where he remains in custody without bond.
He is facing multiple felony charges. If convicted of aggravated assault, he could face up to 20 years in prison. He also faces up to five years in prison if convicted of making terroristic threats and acts and up to 10 years in prison on the charge of having a gun on school grounds. The charge of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony carries a potential five-year sentence.
The other two charges (reckless conduct and disrupting public school) are misdemeanors that could result in up to 1 year in jail.
Police have not yet determined a motive for the incident.
“This is a very egregious act that took place at the school,” Assistant Police Chief Cliff Cason said at a press conference. Cason said many of the details of what happened remain under investigation and more information will be made public.
Cason said that they are not aware of any details of his personal life and have not contact with him.
The Dalton High School incident has become intertwined in discussion over the proposal by President Donald Trump, the NRA and some Republicans to arm teachers. Many on social media are using the incident as an example of why teachers shouldn’t have guns. Conspiracy theories have already been spread claiming that Davidson was a plant or that the incident was staged to discredit the proposal to arm teachers.
Like after Parkland, some students at the school have been quick to push back.
“I’m a Dalton High School student. Please don’t tell me a damn thing about arming teachers. Please don’t tell me that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about,” one student tweeted. When someone responded to her that she was “looking for her 15 minutes,” she responded, “Or maybe sick of talk about gun reform and school safety that ultimately culminates to nothing? We had another safety threat last week too. What other forums do I have to make my voice heard this effectively at this moment in time?”
Another student directed a tweet at the NRA, saying, “my favorite teacher at Dalton high school just blockaded his door and proceeded to shoot. We had to run out The back of the school in the rain. Students were being trampled and screaming. I dare you to tell me arming teachers will make us safe.”
After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, earlier this month, Davidson posted a meme on Facebook about the typical “thoughts and prayers” response to school shootings from many politicians.
On Facebook, Davidson is a member of the “Teapublitarian Party” group, which says in its description, “If you want smaller government with less tax and regulation and all that then your tea party. If you believe in a representative republic and traditional values then you are republican. If you believe your personal rights and responsibilities begin where mine end and the minimal amount of government is still probably too much then your libertarian. If your a bit of all this then you are Teapublitarian. WELCOME HOME.”
He also likes the NRA’s Institute for Legislative-Action page along with the Memorial Page for the Victims at Sandy Hook Elementary.
On Twitter, he expressed support for “stand your ground” laws.
On Google+, Davidson criticized President Obama and Obamacare, and encouraged people to join the Teapublitarian Party, writing, “Get involved. Its the only way things can really change.”
He also wrote on a video from The Blaze showing a comedian “redistributing” Halloween candy in a video mocking socialism, “Kids know socialism/communism is not a good thing even if they’re too young to know what its call. Folks have to be highly educated (brainwashed) to believe in that crap.”
In 2014, Davidson shared a photo posted by Michelle Malkin of an “armed citizen” defending a store in Ferguson, Missouri, during protests over the police shooting death of Michael Brown. He wrote, “I don’t like it. I love it.”
Davidson lives in Dalton with his family, according to the school district’s website. His wife was originally from Dade County, and is also a teacher. They have five children, including two they adopted, the school district’s website says.
“Being a teacher has given me a great family life,” Davidson said in 2012. “I enjoy the 9 weeks off in the summer to have time to focus on my family. Teaching is like a video game—there’s a reset button every summer where you can start thinking about how you’re going to do things better and improve your strategy. And then you start each year with a completely different set of kids that make it a whole new experience.”
Records show Davidson and his wife, a teacher and department chair at Dade County High School in Trenton, Georgia, have filed for bankruptcy twice, including in Tennessee in 2015. Federal court records reveal that Davidson owned six rifles and a shotgun at that time.
5. A Threatening Note Was Found at the School Last Week, but Police Say They Do Not Believe It Is Connected to This Incident
A threatening note was found last week at Dalton High School in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 students and staff members dead, The Associated Press reports. Threats at schools have been on the rise around the country in the aftermath of the Florida shooting. Details of that note were not released.
But Dalton Police said the note is not believed to be connected to Wednesday’s incident involving Davidson.
According to WRCB-TV, the note mentioned a threat against the school on February 22. Extra police officers were assigned to the school that day, the news station reported. It is not clear if there were still extra police in the school on February 28, when the incident involving Davidson occurred.
The school does have a full-time school resource officer, but the officer was not on the school’s campus at the time of the incident. The school resource officer was at a junior high school handling an issue.
Investigators said they were working to determine who wrote the letter.
“We will be working closely with the school to identify the individual that made the threat,” Cason said at the time.
Principal Steve Bartoo said they will be examining what happened during the February 28 incident.
“When incidents like this happen, we always debrief as a system, as a school as well, we’ll being debriefing with our police department, with our faculty as well, so as those things come about we’ll be talking about the incident itself and if there is anything else we could do that could maybe prevent something like this from happening in the future,” Bartoo said.
He said counselors will be available. It is not clear if school will be held Thursday.