December 17, 2012

How an Armed Assistant Principal Stopped a School Shooter

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Luke Woodham, Pearl High School shooter
Luke Woodham, 16, school shooter
Dec. 17, 2012 - The nightmarish school shooting in Newtown, CT last week reminds us that lives could have been saved if some of the staff at Sandy Hook Elementary had been armed. One of them might have been able to take down killer Adam Lanza, thereby saving a dozen or more lives. Gun owners sometimes use their weapon to defend themselves or others but these stories rarely make it to the front page.

Sometimes a gun is used defensively against an animal. Sometimes it's used against a lunatic shooting at kids in a school, and sometimes the hero is a staffer of that school. Assistant principal Joel Myrick, for example, who undoubtedly prevented more killings by using his own hand gun to ruin a killer's day. Myrick used his own pistol to stop a shooting on October 1, 1997 at Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi. Time Magazine reported the following:

At 8 a.m. on Oct. 1, Luke Woodham, 16, bookish, overweight, an atheist filled with hatred for God and his own existence, drove a white Chevy Corsica up to his high school. That was already a sign of trouble: the young man had poor vision and was driven to school every day by his mother.

But three hours earlier that morning, Mary Ann Woodham, 50, was stabbed to death with a butcher knife in the home she shared with her son. Luke Woodham walked into Pearl High's commons, an enclosure created by the school's buildings. He then took a .30-.30 rifle from beneath his blue trench coat and opened fire, wounding seven schoolmates and killing two, Lydia Kaye Dew, 17, and Christina Menefee, 16, a girl he once dated.  

Woodham was subdued by assistant principal Joel Myrick, who pulled a .45-cal. pistol from his car and ordered the gunman to the ground.

"Mr. Myrick," said Woodham, "I was the guy who gave you the discount on the pizza the other night." Woodham had been hoping to make the assistant manager's program at the local Domino's.

Luke Woodham was an atheist
Luke Woodham hated God and humanity (click to enlarge)
If Myrick had not had a gun available, Luke Woodham would probably have been able to kill more people -  only God knows how many more. Anti-gun advocates, of course, would have preferred for Myrick to not have a gun with him that day, and for everyone at the school to just duck under their desks and wait for the police to arrive, while Woodham continued his shooting spree.

It is curious that Time's only mention of Joel Myrick was in that one paragraph. It was unavoidable, of course: How else would Time explain how crazy Luke was stopped?

To dwell on Myrick's heroic actions, of course, would be to lend justification to his defensive use of a gun - a gun that was used to save lives. The editors of Time probably still feel guilty about having to even mention that part of the story at all. Guns don't save people, armed people save people.

The story of Luke Woodham is not the story of your typical gun owner. Pardon my layman's analysis, but the guy was obviously crazy. Highlights of his insanity, by way of
  • Woodham, age 16, tortured and set fire to and killed his dog, Sparkle. He was quoted as saying to the police "I made my first kill, we sprayed fluid down her throat, her neck caught on fire inside and out. It was true beauty." 
  • Woodham, stabbed his mother to death in her bed then went on to school the same day to open fire on his classmates, killing two teenage girls and injuring 7 others.
  • In his personal journal, Woodham recorded how he beat, burned and tortured his dog Sparkle, describing the inhumane death as a thing of "true beauty".
  • In June 1998, Woodham was found guilty for 3 murders and seven counts of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 3 life sentences and an additional 20 years for each assault charge.
Luke Woodham was part of a satanic cult called "the Kroth" in Pearl High. One Kroth member "described a bizarre plan for the members of his Kroth cult to lay siege to the school, setting off napalm fires and cutting telephone lines before killing selected people and then fleeing the town of Pearl for Louisiana, Mexico and, finally, Cuba," reported the New York Times in 1997.
The story of Myrick's heroism has, fortunately, not been forgotten. The Boulder Weekly published a column about the incident, written by Wayne Laugesen, on Oct. 15, 1999. Here is an excerpt, with my own emphasis added:

The moment Myrick heard shots, he ran to his truck. He unlocked the door, removed his gun from its case, removed a round of bullets from another case, loaded the gun and went looking for the killer.

"I've always kept a gun in the truck just in case something like this ever happened," said Myrick, who has since become Principal of Corinth High School, Corinth, Miss.

Woodham knew cops would arrive before too long, so he was all business, no play. No talk of Jesus, just shooting and reloading, shooting and reloading. He shot until he heard sirens, and then ran to his car. His plan, authorities subsequently learned, was to drive to nearby Pearl Junior High School and shoot more kids before police could show up.

But Joel Myrick - and his gun - foiled that plan. He saw the killer fleeing the campus and positioned himself to point a gun at the windshield. Woodham, seeing the gun pointed at his head, crashed the car. Myrick approached the killer and confronted him. "Here was this monster killing kids in my school, and the minute I put a gun to his head he was a kid again," Myrick said. More at

Laugesen recalled in his column another school shooting where the staff were unarmed.  "If only someone like Myrick had been at Columbine, I've pondered," he wrote.

Laugesen's column includes a must-read argument against the anti-gun crowd. Excerpt:

Myrick is as much of a hero as the law would allow. He was only seconds away from the shootings, yet the law had him far away from his gun. Federal law precludes anyone but a cop from having a weapon in or near a school. The modern spree of school shootings began sometime shortly after this law was enacted. In most places, state and local laws needlessly duplicate the federal law, serving only to accommodate political grandstanding.

In Pearl, federal, state and local laws helped Luke Woodham shoot nine students. The deer rifle had to be reloaded after every shot. To hit nine students, Woodham needed time. The moments it took Myrick to reach his gun are what allowed Woodham to continue shooting and almost escape. Anti-gun rules, and nothing else, gave Woodham that time.

It would be interesting to hear an anti-gun person try to counter that logic. They do it all the time, of course, by letting emotions get in the way of intelligent reasoning. Those emotions, though felt with compassion for the victims of gun crimes, are misplaced. They are partly responsible for lost lives that could have been saved but for their well-meaning idiocy.

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