For those of you who haven’t heard by now the tragic news out of Nebraska regarding Robert Butler Jr., the 17-year old son of an Omaha, Nebraska police detective, who walked into the administration office of Millard South High School in Omaha, and fatally shot the assistant principal and critically wounded the principal, I will take a moment to give the details I have been able to glean from various sources.
Robert Butler Jr. was new to Millard South High School, having recently transferred there from a school in Lincoln in November. His fellow students, if they knew him at all, did not know that much about him. One student who was interviewed characterized him as “arrogant” and “snappy with his teachers”. No one seemed to have any clue as to what had set him off on his murderous rampage, but on January 5, he purposefully walked into his school’s office and shot Vice Principal Vicki Kaspar, 58, and Principal Curtis Case, 45. A lockdown was immediately called and students were told over the PA system that this was not a drill. Teachers proceeded to lock doors and get their students to sit on the floor in the corner of the room and wait. Many students were forced to take cover in the kitchen as the shooting took place around lunch time.
For two hours they waited as anxious parents congregated outside the school frantically texting their children to get word of what was happening on the inside. In the meantime, Butler ran from the building, got in his car, and drove about a mile away. He parked his car, and proceeded to shoot himself. When the police caught up with him, he was already dead.
After a two-hour frantic wait, the students were finally released to a church near the school where parents anxiously were reunited and grateful to have their children safely in their arms once again. And that is the good news here; no children were shot or injured in any way, but Vice Principal Kaspar died in the hospital a few hours after her arrival, and Principal Case was listed in serious condition.
So what precipitated this tragic event; what reason did Robert Butler have for shooting his principals? At this point, authorities do not know precisely, although Butler did post a very troubling message on Facebook which blamed the school for the terrible things he was going to do. He claimed that Milliard was worse than his previous school and that the new city had changed him. Yet, I find it hard to believe that in just two months a child can be so changed that he can conceive of shooting others and then himself as his only recourse. A recent update indicates that the administrators he had shot had previously suspended Robert for driving on the school’s football field. It has also been reported that some of his friends (I don’t know yet if these are friends from Lincoln or from Omaha) say that he was troubled, got into fights, had behavior problems, and seemed unhappy. It will be interesting to see, as the facts start coming out, if he had experienced other disciplinary actions at Milliard, and if so, for what.
As far as his time in Lincoln schools, a classmate of his who confirmed the Facebook post and provided The Associated Press with a copy of it, described Butler as “energetic, fun, and outgoing”. He said he sometimes got in trouble for being a little too vocal in class, but that he didn’t seem like an angry person. And Butler’s step-grandfather said that the event didn’t fit with the polite person he knew. Rob Slauson, his principal at Lincoln Southwest High School, said that Butler was involved in few, if any, activities before transferring to Omaha, but officials refused to provide information about his student record.
So, it’s a mystery, but a mystery is like an intricate puzzle; there are pieces out there which will eventually explain what caused Robert’s tragic choices and what precipitated his fateful demise. As these are revealed, I will update you. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers need to go out to all of those in Omaha who have been traumatized by this terrible event, and that includes Robert Butler Junior’s family as well.