Marshall County High School

Deep In Gun Country, Students Speak Out On Gun Violence

Mar 26, 2018
Nicole Erwin

Gun culture runs deep in much of the Ohio Valley, where hunting is a revered tradition and the majority of state lawmakers in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia boast “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association.

But even here the growing national student activism on gun safety is taking hold in the wake of recent school shootings. With some three dozen events in the region coinciding with the national March For Our Lives protest, more students from the region are deciding to speak out.

The Ohio Valley ReSource sampled some student viewpoints from around the region.


After the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, students across the country have raised their voices to protest gun violence: "Enough is enough." "Never again." "Not one more."

For Lela Free, a freshman in Marshall County, Ky., another phrase comes to mind.

"We should have been the last," she says.

Just weeks before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, a student armed with a handgun entered Marshall County High School in Kentucky. He killed two students, and injured 18 others.

Rhonda J. Miller

The Bowling Green community is holding a 'March for Our Lives' on Saturday in support of the national event organized to push for stricter gun laws after 17 students and teachers were fatally shot in Parkland, Florida in February. 

The Bowling Green 'March for Our Lives' is mainly to encourage legislators to pass laws to create safer schools and cut down on gun violence. Many students in Kentucky are on edge after two students were shot to death by a classmate at Marshall County High School in January, followed by the massacre at the Florida high school last month.

The Bowling Green march is being coordinated by the Center for Citizenship and Social Justice at Western Kentucky University. Leah Ashwill is director of the center and says speakers at the community event will take a broad view of gun violence.

Students Push As Lawmakers Ponder Gun Safety Bills

Mar 17, 2018
Nicole Erwin

In a recently released court video, Capt. Matt Hilbrecht of the Marshall County, Kentucky, Sheriff’s office testifies about his interrogation of Gabriel Parker, the 15-year-old accused of a mass shooting at Marshall County High School in January.

“We asked him initially when he had the thought of the school shooting,” Hilbrecht begins as he describes the events leading up to the shooting. The recording was released because Parker is being tried as an adult.

Hilbrecht explains how Parker got the 9mm pistol he would use to kill two teens and injure 17 others: Parker found it in his parents’ closet.


Nicole Erwin

In the wake of the January shooting at Marshall County High School, Kentucky lawmakers have advanced a bill that would require schools to employ mental health professionals to recognize symptoms of trauma in students.

Rep. Will Coursey, a Democrat from Symsonia whose district includes the high school, said the bill was “born out of tragedy.”

“But we firmly believe that if implemented, this piece of legislation would certainly spare us tragedy in the future,” Coursey said.

Marshall County Circuit Court video screenshot

Marshall County Circuit Court has released previously sealed documents in the case of accused Marshall County High School shooter Gabe Parker.  The Kentucky Court of Appeals ordered Thursday that an arraignment video along with other documents involving the January 23 shooting be released.

Note: Watch Gabe Parker's previously sealed arraignment video below.

The presiding Judge Jamie Jameson had ordered that documents remain closed due to a defense attorney’s questioning of Parker’s due process in juvenile proceedings.  In the arraignment video Jameson, also urged confidentiality of the proceedings in the event that the case moves to trial.

Flickr/Creative Commons/James Case

A school safety expert told state lawmakers Thursday there’s “no way” arming teachers would make schools safer in the wake of the mass shooting at Marshall County High School.

The Kentucky House and Senate Education committees held a special meeting on Thursday to discuss school safety issues, though no specific pieces of legislation were up for a vote.

President Trump, Gov. Matt Bevin and some Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly have called for allowing teachers to have access to guns on campus in order to defend students against school shooters.

Nicole Erwin

In the wake of school shootings in Kentucky and Florida, a rash of copycat school threats throughout the Ohio Valley left law enforcement and school officials grappling with how to improve security. A school counseling expert says it’s useful to look at the potential school shootings that did not happen. His research focuses on how schools have successfully averted shooting incidents.

Culture of Dignity

Dr. Jeff Daniels, Chair of West Virginia University’s counseling department, interviewed school personnel and law enforcement officers who were able to prevent imminent school shootings.


Law enforcement agencies in Kentucky say their resources are being strained by a rash of threats against schools following last week’s shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead.

Extra security is being added at many schools across the commonwealth where students have threatened violence, most often on social media. 

The Logan County Sheriff's Office posted this warning on its Facebook page Tuesday night:

A 15-year-old male student from Barren County is under arrest after threatening violence on social media. 

A student at Glasgow High School told administrators Friday morning about the online post which showed a fellow student holding a gun and knife.  The photo accompanied what police called troubling and disturbing threats.  Glasgow Police Lt. Jimmy Phelps says the threats, however, weren't specific.

"The threats that were made did not mention a person or a location where these treats would be carried out," Phelps told WKU Public Radio.  "It did not name a school and it did not name anyone."

Grand Jury Meeting on Kentucky School Shooting

Feb 13, 2018
Nicole Erwin, WKMS

A Kentucky grand jury is meeting to consider charging a teenager as an adult in a shooting that killed two classmates and wounded many more at Marshall County High School.

In closed proceedings, the grand jury will decide Tuesday whether to indict the 15-year-old boy on charges that would move the case out of juvenile court.

Kentucky State police say that if the teen is indicted, no information will be made public until he's arraigned in Circuit Court, on a date set by a judge.

Nicole Erwin, WKMS

A Kentucky high school where two students were killed in a shooting last month has begun using metal detectors as an added security precaution.

West Kentucky Star cites a statement from the Marshall County school district that says staff would begin using metal detector wands on Tuesday to check students as they pass through one of four entrances into the building.

Nicole Erwin, WKMS

A week after the Marshall County High School shooting, media outlets are grappling with the question of whether to identity the juvenile suspect. 

Kentucky’s largest newspaper released the 15-year-old’s name in a story earlier this week. 

Amanda Crawford teaches media ethics at Western Kentucky University.  She says while the teen’s identity has been widely disseminated online, journalists are held to a higher standard for publicizing such information.

Bevin Speaks at Koch Event On 'Day of Prayer' for Shooting

Jan 30, 2018
J. Tyler Franklin

On the day that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin declared a "day of prayer" for the small community impacted by last week's deadly school shooting, Bevin was speaking to an elite group of GOP donors at a private retreat in California.

Bevin was a featured guest Sunday at the exclusive weekend retreat near Palm Springs, California, sponsored by the political network backed by conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch. He was one of just two governors on the guest list.

Matt Markgraf, WKMS

She wore black Converse shoes and Louisville Cardinals sweatshirts and loved classic rock. He played on the high school baseball team and enjoyed history and the outdoors. They were 15. They were Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope. They started school together and they ended school together. They were killed in a shooting spree at Marshall County High School on Tuesday, January 23.

Police say a 15-year-old student opened fire in the commons area as school began for the day. A total of 16 were shot and others were injured. Bailey Holt died in the school and Preston Cope died after being transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville.

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