MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A judge set bail at $100,000 Tuesday for a Vermont teenager accused in a school shooting plot that led to the first significant restrictions on gun ownership in Vermont history.
Jack Sawyer, 18, has been held without bail since his arrest Feb. 15 on attempted aggravated murder and other charges. Prosecutors say Sawyer, who kept a journal entitled “Journal of an Active Shooter,” made detailed plans for a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School and said his goal was to kill more people than in any other school shooting.
The Vermont Supreme Court last week ruled that in Sawyer’s case “preparation alone” did not prove an attempt at aggravated murder, and said he should not be kept in jail.
The ruling prompted Republican Gov. Phil Scott to urge lawmakers to close “existing loopholes” related to the attempt law and establish a domestic terrorism statute, although they cannot retroactively be applied to Sawyer’s case.
On Monday, prosecutor Rose Kennedy filed two more charges against Sawyer: threatening and carrying a dangerous weapon with the intent of injuring someone for which the judge found probable cause.
Sawyer pleaded not guilty to all the charges. No bail was posted immediately after the hearing.
Judge Thomas Zonay imposed conditions of release for Sawyer, including that he be under a 24-hour curfew and under the supervision of his father at his father’s home in Poultney. The home must not have any firearms. Sawyer also must not have contact with students, teachers and staff at the high school and must contact a licensed mental health professional for an assessment within 72 hours of release.
Sawyer’s lawyer and father said they want to get him placed at the Brattleboro Retreat psychiatric hospital if a bed is available.
Sawyer was arrested the day after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17, and the plot caused the governor to rethink his position on gun restrictions, to the dismay of pro-gun activists. Last week, Scott signed legislation that raised the age to buy firearms, banned high-capacity magazines and made it easier to take guns from people who pose a threat.
Kennedy used one of the new gun restrictions, obtaining an extreme risk protection order that said Sawyer poses an extreme risk of physical harm to himself and others and is barred from having any firearms.
The prospect of Sawyer’s release put the Fair Haven school and community on edge.
Fair Haven Union High School parent Andrea Ochs attended Tuesday’s court hearing alongside several students.
I want us to feel safe,” said Ochs, tearing up. Her two daughters attend the school she graduated from and the older one, a senior, had classes with Sawyer.
“Fair Haven, I mean, we’re a great community. And we always take care of each other,” she said. “And it’s very unnerving, unsettling, to know that one of our own would feel the way he feels and potentially harm my kids.”
After the hearing, the high school superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell sent a letter to parents, teachers and staff saying school officials were working closely with law enforcement authorities.
“We will not disclose publicly all that we have done or how law enforcement will be keeping us safe, but we are confident that our buildings are safe,” she wrote.
By LISA RATHKE
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