School Shooter: 'I Didn't Realize' They Would Die

More than a decade and the breadth of a continent stand between Evan Ramsey and the carnage he inflicted on a Bethel, Alaska, high school, but the memories still play vividly through his mind.

It was Feb. 19, 1997. Twelve-gauge shotgun to his shoulder, Ramsey, then 16, traveled the halls and panicked his classmates as random shots filled the air. When it was over, when the police had Ramsey shackled in cuffs, and a basketball star and the school principal lay dead.

"I honestly believed that if you shoot somebody, that they would get back up," Ramsey told ABC News in a recent interview at the Arizona prison where he is serving a 210-year sentence. It's hard to accept, he admits, but Ramsey said his naivete left him unable to grasp that firing a gun in the real world is different from firing one in a video game: "I didn't realize that you shoot somebody, they die."

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Ramsey Says Friends Taught Him About Guns

But two people did die, and what makes their deaths especially tragic is that they probably could have been prevented. In the days before he opened fire, Ramsey told at least two of his closest friends that he could no longer hold his anger. He asked one for a gun and the second for advice on how to use it.

The two told other students what Ramsey had in mind, but no one tried to talk him out of the killing spree. In fact, Ramsey said, they did the opposite.

They said "that while I'm at it, I might as well go shoot this person and that person and that person," Ramsey recalled. One friend "brought up the idea of bringing in a camera and taking pictures so he could save the memory, if you will."

The morbid encouragement by Ramsey's friends may be shocking, but their failure -- and that of everyone else -- to warn school officials or police, or to do anything else to stop his deadly plans is far from unusual.

According to a study sponsored by the Secret Service and the Department of Education and obtained exclusively by ABC News, only 4 percent of the people who knew that a student intended to shoot someone tried to dissuade him -- even though previous research found that 81 percent of school shooters told classmates or teachers of their plans.

The problem, concludes the study, is that America's schools have not made bystanders feel safe about reporting campus shooting threats.

"We found that those who didn't come forward either felt afraid about coming forward, they felt the school climate wouldn't support them, or they were afraid they'd be made fun of," said William Pollack, a professor at Harvard Medical School and the author of the study.

Ramsey said that in his case, a warning when he first thought about killing someone would have made all the difference.

"If somebody had said something," he insisted, "my crime wouldn't have happened."

The Bystander's Role

Researchers have long been puzzled by what provokes students to shoot their classmates and teachers dead, but a clearer picture has emerged from Secret Service and Education Department studies. Experts have discovered that:

Three-quarters of school shooters were bullied.

A similar proportion were severely depressed and suicidal.

About 93 percent were known by teachers and school officials to have had emotional problems before the shooting.

The shooters came from a range of economic backgrounds, from working class to upper-middle class.

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