By Emmett Gienapp, Chattanooga Times Free Press
Dalton Police officers have taken into custody a teacher who allegedly barricaded himself in a classroom and fired a handgun in a classroom at Dalton High School.
Jesse Randal Davidson has been charged with aggravated assault, carrying a weapon on school grounds, terroristic threats, reckless conduct, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and disrupting a public school.
Police say Davidson brought the gun he used, a snub-nosed .38 revolver, onto campus in his computer case when he arrived this morning.
He has not disclosed his motives to investigators.
(Students at Dalton High School were sending snaps and tweets showing others what they were going through during the incident at their school. Courtesy of 11Alive and YouTube. Posted on Feb 28, 2018)
Davidson, a social studies teacher who has been at the school since 2004, was alone in his room during his planning period, according to police.
Around 11:30 a.m. a student tried to get inside and found the door was locked.
A principal then tried to open it with a key, which is when Davidson fired through a window.
Police were called to the school as kids were evacuated to the gym and some locker rooms. Officers negotiated with him for 30 to 45 minutes before he turned himself in.
Police say no children were injured in the incident which brought local, state and federal emergency response agencies to the scene.
“When you hear this kind of call go out, if you’ve got a badge, you run to it,” said Bruce Frazier, spokesman for the Dalton Police Department.
“Our people responded and coordinated in a very professional way.”
(Dalton High School Principal Steve Bartoo described what he experienced during the incident involving a teacher and a gun. Courtesy of 11Alive and YouTube. Posted on Feb 28, 2018)
An employee at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center at 2211 Dug Gap Battle Road said school officials notified them about the situation and told them they would be bringing kids to the center to be picked up by parents.
The employee said school officials didn’t tell her how many students to expect, but did say shots had been fired and the school was on lockdown.
The Dalton Police Department worked to keep the community updated, directing parents away from the high school to the convention center.
“PARENTS DO NOT COME TO DALTON HIGH,” tweeted the official Dalton Police Department Twitter account.
“Students will be taken to the [NW] GA Trade Center. Parents should go there.”
“Repeat: no children hurt, no children in danger.”
(This is what we know about 53-year-old Randal Davidson. Courtesy of 11Alive and YouTube. Posted on Feb 28, 2018)
Summer Thomas, a resident of Maryville Tenn. said she has a niece enrolled in a Kindergarten near the school and she first heard about the situation when her sister, the girl’s mother, called.
“My sister called us in a frantic, just tizzy because of the fact that she got a call from the school saying the school was on lockdown and there was a school shooter active in the building,” she said.
Thomas said she last heard from her sister 30 minutes ago when she said she was going to the school to find her daughter.
Thomas said she’s glad no children were injured, but the scare has been traumatizing.
“My heart is still racing and I’m just sitting here shaking, thinking about it. It’s just absolute madness,” she said.
“I can’t imagine being people who actually had to experience their children or family dying in these incidents. It’s absolute madness and I really hope something changes soon because we can’t keep going through this.”
(Parents describe what it felt like to hear there had been a shooting at their child’s school. Courtesy of 11Alive and YouTube. Posted on Feb 28, 2018)
Davidson was the announcer for the Dalton Catamounts football games and six years ago wrote a book about the school’s football program, “Catamounts! The Glorious History of Dalton Football.”
A 2012 post on the Dalton Public Schools website states that Davidson at the time had been voice of the Catamounts for 18 years and a teacher at the school since 2004. It says he grew up in Atlanta.
In 2012, Davidson told the Dalton Daily Citizen why he wrote the book: “The book is the story of one of the central facets of this community, one of the hubs, one of the backbones. While everything is changing, it is the story of the kids who played a game that captured a community.”
The Dalton incident is receiving national attention from news outlets, mainly because it happened as a debate about whether teachers should be armed is underway. Pundits also are weighing in.
Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio talk show host, today suggested that the Dalton High incident might have been faked by those opposed to arming teachers. A post on his website states:
“Oh, of course this will be the argument we use for not arming teachers, but what if the whole thing’s a setup to create that very — what if the teacher is a radical leftist and does this to give the [media] a news story that they can then point to. ‘See, we can’t arm teachers.’ … We’re dealing with exactly these kind of people who engage in fake everything that they try to make look real. Nope. I’m not claiming that’s what this was. But I will say that if it turned out to be that, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Members of law enforcement have investigated several threats to schools in the Chattanooga region in the weeks since the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl that claimed the lives of 17 students.
The Times Free Press previously reported that three students were taken into custody last week after making what were perceived as threats to student safety at area high schools.
In one incident, a Ringgold, Ga., high school student is accused of making a new Snapchat account, sending herself a threatening message and passing it along to other students, making it look like she was the target of a dangerous plot.
The Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office charged 17-year-old Alexandria Justine Greene, of Cemetery Road in Ringgold, with falsely reporting a crime. According to an incident report, other students heard about the threatening message and alerted the police.
Separately, a Chattanooga girl was charged with filing a false report after a meme parents perceived as a threat was circulated on social media Monday afternoon.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Chattanooga Police and East Ridge Police were made aware of the meme and began investigating, according to a news release.
The message contained what many students and parents thought might be a threat or warning pertaining to three schools in Hamilton County.
Authorities managed to track it to a juvenile who was identified as the creator of the meme.
It was determined there was no real threat, but charges will be filed in juvenile court against the girl because her actions caused significant community alarm.
Those arrests came days after three Bradley County students were arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot up Bradley Central High School and another student was jailed after a social media threat against Meigs County High School.
A spokesman for Rutherford County Schools also said false rumors had been spread to parents and students, but no credible threats were made.
Mr.Davidson was my favorite teacher. This is so heart breaking. It can be anyone #DALTON
— alyssa? (@alyssaflynn10) February 28, 2018
He will remain the best teacher i’ve ever had. He was so loving and caring filled with laughters and jokes. It hurts knowing it was him who shot the gun. I LOVE and will MISS you Mr. Davidson. Trust me i will visit you. #daltonhighschool @11AliveNews
— tania ramirez (@taniaramirez53) February 28, 2018
@nra 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.
— Chondi? (@_omg_chondi_) February 28, 2018
I’m a student at dalton high school and I’m traumatized. Stop using my trauma for your conspiracies. We need to end gun violence now.
— andrea? (@iceinmylean) February 28, 2018