SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Caleb Sharpe, who fatally shot a classmate and injured three others five years ago at a Washington state high school, apologized to his victims before being sentenced Friday to at least 40 years in prison.
Sharpe, who was 15 at the time of the 2017 shooting, pleaded guilty earlier this year in Spokane County Superior Court. Sharpe, 20, showed no emotion when Superior Court Judge Michael Price handed down a sentence twice that requested by defense attorneys.
After serving his sentence, Sharpe will have to appear before a sentence review board before his release, Price said. The board will assess Sharpe’s likelihood of reoffending and his level of rehabilitation.
He will get credit for the nearly five years he has already spent in custody, the judge said.
After closing statements from attorneys for both sides, Sharpe made his first public comments since his arrest five years ago.
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“I feel sorry for this whole community,” Sharpe said Friday. “I feel sorry for the people who can’t sleep at night.”
Sharpe also directly apologized to his three injured victims and to Ami Strahan, the mother of 15-year-old Sam Strahan, who died in the attack.
“Above all, I’m sorry for Ami and Emily for taking Sam away from them,” Sharpe said.
“Evil has no place in my heart,” Sharpe said. “I can never do enough penance to repay what I have taken. I pray for forgiveness.
On Thursday, Ami Strahan and the three injured girls made statements, all saying they wanted Sharpe to serve the maximum prison sentence, which was 45 years.
Sharpe brought several weapons to school on the morning of September 13, 2017 and opened fire in a hallway, hitting four students before being confronted and handed over to a guard.
After years of court delays, Sharpe 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 Sharpe shot them in the second floor hallway of their school.
“As I lay there, I watched you walk beside me. The lockout alarm sounded, dressed in black with the most impassive face I’ve ever seen,” Jensen told Sharpe. “Shooting my classmates as they run for their lives in the classrooms. I screamed. There was nothing else I could do.”
“I started running and I 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 quickly as possible. As I was running, I started to think there was absolutely no way out of this.
Ami Strahan said she was at work when friends came to her office and told her to hang up. They said there was a shooting at Freeman High.
When she arrived at school, she noticed that she was taken to a different area than the 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, loudly,” Strahan said. “And I fell.”
“You took my son in the worst possible way and you have no remorse,” Strahan told Sharpe. “You ruined my life.”
She called Sharpe a “sick, devilish coward”.
Brooke Foley, Sharpe’s public defender, previously asked the judge for a 20-year sentence, due to Sharpe’s age and lack of maturity at the time of the shooting.
Assistant District Attorney Sharon Hedlund agreed Sharpe’s sentence should be lower than the standard range, but urged Price to hand down a 35-year sentence.
On the day of the shooting, Sharpe brought a sports bag on his school bus that contained an AR-15 rifle and handgun, along with numerous boxes of .223 ammunition.
At school, Sharpe headed straight for a second-floor hallway, where he dropped the gym bag and removed the assault rifle. He started to load the gun, which jammed.
As Sharpe struggled to load the weapon, Strahan approached him.
“I always knew you were going to shoot the school,” Strahan told Sharpe, according to court documents. “You know this is going to get you in trouble.”
Sharpe then pulled the gun out from under his coat and fired a single shot, hitting Strahan in the stomach. Strahan slumped forward, at which point Sharpe shot him again, this time in the face.
Sharpe continued walking down the hall and shot and injured the three girls.
After firing into the crowd, Sharpe threw the handgun away. At this point, he was faced with goalkeeper Joe Bowen. Sharpe raised his hands above his head in surrender as Bowen approached.
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