A man who shot one classmate to death and wounded three others five years ago in a Washington state high school apologized to his victims before he was sentenced Friday to at least 40 years in prison.
Caleb Sharpe, who was 15 at the time of the 2017 shootings, pleaded guilty early this year in Spokane County Superior Court. The 20-year-old showed no emotion as Superior Court Judge Michael Price handed down a sentence that was twice what defense attorneys had requested.
After serving his sentence, the man will have to go before a sentencing review board prior to his release, Price ruled. The board will evaluate his likelihood to reoffend and his level of rehabilitation.
He will get credit for the nearly five years he has already been in custody, the judge said.
After closing statements by attorneys for both sides, the shooter made his first public comments since his arrest five years ago.
“I'm sorry to this entire community,” he said Friday. “I'm sorry to the people who can't sleep at night.”
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He also directly apologized to his three wounded victims and to Ami Strahan, the mother of 15-year-old Sam Strahan, who died in the attack.
“Most of all I am sorry to Ami and Emily for taking Sam from them,” he said.
“Evil has no place in my heart,” he said. “I can never do enough penance to pay back what I have taken. I pray for forgiveness.”
On Thursday, Ami Strahan and the three wounded girls gave statements, all saying they wanted the shooter to serve the maximum time in prison, which was 45 years.
The shooter brought several weapons to school the morning of Sept. 13, 2017, and opened fire in a hallway, hitting four students before he was confronted and surrendered to a custodian.
After years of court delays, he pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder in January.
On Thursday, victims Emma Nees and Gracie Jensen described what happened the day they were shot on the second-floor hallway of their school.
“As I lay there, I watched you walk by me. Lockdown alarm blaring, wearing all black with the most emotionless face I’ve ever seen," Jensen said to the man. "Shooting at my classmates as they run for their lives into classrooms. I screamed. There was nothing else I could do.”
“I started running and was so scared because I felt like I was running in slow motion,” Emma Nees said in her testimony. “My mission was to get to the nearest classroom as fast as possible. As I was running, I began thinking there’s absolutely no way I’m getting out of this.”
Ami Strahan said she was at work when friends came up to her desk and told her to get off the phone. They said there had been a shooting at Freeman High.
When she arrived at the school, she noticed she was being led to a different area than other parents: She was taken to the sheriff.
When she told Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich who she was, he just shook his head.
“I screamed twice, loud,” Strahan said. “And I fell down."
“You took my son in the worst way possible and you have zero remorse,” Strahan told the shooter. “You ruined my life.”
She called him a “sick, evil coward.”
Brooke Foley, the man's public defender, earlier asked the judge for a sentence of 20 years, because of his age and lack of maturity at the time of the shooting.
Deputy Prosecutor Sharon Hedlund agreed that his sentence should be below the standard range, but urged Price to issue a 35-year sentence.
On the day of the shootings, the shooter brought a duffel bag onto his school bus which contained an AR-15 rifle and handgun, along with numerous boxes of .223 ammunition.
At school he headed straight to a second-floor hallway, where he dropped the duffel bag and removed the assault rifle. He started to load the gun, which jammed.
As he struggled to load the weapon, Strahan approached him.
“I always knew you were going to shoot up the school,” Strahan told him, according to court documents. “You know that is going to get you in trouble.”
The shooter then pulled the pistol from under his coat and fired a single shot, striking Strahan in the stomach. Strahan collapsed forward, at which point the shooter shot him again, this time in the face.
He continued to walk down the hallway and shot and wounded the three girls.
After firing into the crowd, he threw the handgun down. At this point he was confronted by custodian Joe Bowen. He raised his hands above his head in surrender as Bowen approached.