Bellbrook Police Chief Doug Doherty speaks to members of the media Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, on the street where Connor Betts had lived, in Bellbrook, Ohio. Betts was identified by authorities as the deceased gunman in a mass shooting in Dayton the previous day. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Ohio gunman’s ex-classmates decry missed chances to stop him

The male classmate, who was on the track team with the suspect, said he routinely threatened violence toward other students

High school classmates of the gunman who killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio, say he was suspended years ago for compiling a “hit list” and a “rape list,” and questioned how he could have been allowed to buy the military-style weapon used in this weekend’s attack.

The accounts emerged after police said there was nothing in the background of 24-year-old Connor Betts that would have prevented him from purchasing an AR 15-style rifle with an extended ammunition magazine that he used to open fire outside a crowded bar early Sunday. Police on patrol in the entertainment district fatally shot him less than a minute later.

The former classmates told The Associated Press that Betts was suspended during their junior year at suburban Bellbrook High School after a hit list was found scrawled in a school bathroom. That followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault, according to two of the classmates, a man and a woman who are both now 24 and spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern they might face harassment.

“There was a kill list and a rape list, and my name was on the rape list,” said the female classmate.

READ MORE: 9 killed in Ohio in second U.S. mass shooting within 24 hours

A former cheerleader, the woman said she didn’t really know Betts and was surprised when a police officer called her cellphone during her freshman year to tell her that her name was included on a list of potential targets.

“The officer said he wouldn’t be at school for a while,” she said. “But after some time passed he was back, walking the halls. They didn’t give us any warning that he was returning to school.”

The male classmate, who was on the track team with Betts, said Betts routinely threatened violence toward other students.

“Most people avoided him,” the man said. “He would say shocking things just to get a reaction. He enjoyed making people feel scared.”

Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools officials declined to comment on those accounts, only confirming that Betts attended schools in the district.

The discovery of the hit list early in 2012 sparked a police investigation and, according to a Dayton Daily News story at the time, roughly a third of 900 Bellbrook students skipped school one day out of fear of a planned attack.

Another former Bellbrook student, who also spoke on condition of anonymity due to concerns of harassment, recounted to AP that he was on a school bus when a uniformed police officer came on board, asked for Betts by name and then escorted him off.

It’s not clear what became of that investigation. Police Chief Michael Brown in Sugarcreek Township, which has jurisdiction over the Bellbrook school, wouldn’t answer any questions about Betts from an AP reporter Monday. Asked about a hit list in high school, the chief said “I don’t know anything about that.”

READ MORE: Trump says he wants stronger gun checks, gives few details

Later, Brown’s department emailed media outlets “everything we have on Connor Betts.” The file included a 2015 crash report from when Betts ran his car into a ditch and a copy of a 2012 Ohio state law that requires all sealed records of juvenile crimes to be expunged either after 5 years or on the offender’s 23rd birthday. Department officials did not respond to questions about whether those records still exist.

Though Betts, who was 17 in 2012, was not named publicly by authorities as the author of the hit list, the former classmates said it was common knowledge within the school he was the one suspended over the incident.

Drew Gainey was among those who went on social media Sunday to say red flags were raised about Betts’ behaviour years ago.

“There was an incident in high school with this shooter that should have prevented him from ever getting his hands on a weapon. This was a tragedy that was 100% avoidable,” he tweeted.

Hannah Shows was another former Bellbrook student who took to social media.

“Connor seriously threatened to hurt women who rejected him, myself included,” Shows wrote on Facebook. “Connor Betts has been openly talking about doing this for a decade and no one could do anything about it.”

Former Bellbrook Principal Chris Baker said he “would not dispute that information” when the Daily News asked him Sunday about the hit list suspension. He declined to comment further to the newspaper or the AP.

Betts had no apparent criminal record as an adult and it is not clear what, if any, criminal charges Betts faced when he was under 18 — especially if his records were expunged. Ohio law bars anyone convicted of a felony as an adult, or convicted of a juvenile charge that would have been a felony if they were 18 or older, from buying firearms.

READ MORE: El Paso suspect appears to have posted anti-immigrant screed

“There’s nothing in this individual’s record that would have precluded him from getting these weapons,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said Sunday.

Not everyone who went to school with Betts had bad things to say.

Brad Howard told reporters in Bellbrook on Sunday that he was friends with Betts from preschool through their high school graduation.

“Connor Betts that I knew was a nice kid. The Connor Betts that I talked to, I always got along with well,” Howard said.

Mike Kern, a customer at the gas station where Betts used to work in Bellbrook, said he “was the nicest kid you could imagine. … I never heard him talk about violence, say a racist word, or anything like that.”

He said they sometimes played trivia at a bar near the gas station and Betts impressed with his knowledge of current events and pop culture.

“He was real smart,” Kern said. “He knew all the answers.”

___

Biesecker reported from Washington. AP reporters Reese Dunklin in Dallas, John Seewer and Robert Bumsted in Bellbrook and Michael Kunzelman in Silver Spring, Maryland, contributed to this report.

___

Michael Biesecker And Julie Carr Smyth, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Parksville Lawn Bowling Club on a roll for artificial turf

Project to cost over $500,000 but will save club money

More Parksville pop-up water parks planned

Fire department says Sunday, Aug. 18 next one on the agenda

Hi Neighbour Day celebrates 50th year in Errington

Pancake breakfast, parade, zucchini race and more planned for this years’ festivities

Semi-truck crashes on Hwy. 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino-Ucluelet

Drivers heading in or out of Tofino-Ucluelet Friday afternoon should expect delays

Errington scrap wood fire still under investigation

Three fire departments deployed to battle highly visible blaze

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after B.C. Mountie’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Ferries employees participating in Denman Island cleanup for plastic-shedding ferry

The cleanup comes a few weeks after one organized by residents of the Island

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Most Read