Ga. School Shooter Gets 40 Years

A teenager who shot and wounded six high school classmates last year has been sentenced to 40 years in prison and 65 years of probation.

T.J. Solomon, 17, who pleaded guilty but mentally ill a day earlier, held his head in his hands through much of Thursday’s hearing. He stood up straight and had no visible reaction to the sentence.

“I apologize to the court and everyone who was hurt. I’m sorry for what I did,” Solomon said at the beginning of the hearing. “I don’t understand why I did it. I see myself as a little confused and I’d like to get help.”

For Community Safety

Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation said he felt sorry for Solomon, but said he would “err on the side of safety for the community.” Solomon opened fire with a sawed-off rifle at Heritage High School in suburban Atlanta on May 20, 1999, one month after the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, in which 15 people were killed.

No one was killed or critically injured in the Heritage High School shooting, and witnesses said Solomon, then 15, aimed below the waist.

Witnesses said he surrendered to an assistant principal with a tearful: “Oh, my God, I’m so scared!”

Appeal for Mental Treatment Solomon’s attorney, Ed Garland, had recommended 10 years in prison and indicated he may appeal.

“I’m very sad, I’m very disappointed T.J. will not be provided treatment for his mental illness,” Garland said.

Victims who were in the courtroom hugged after the sentence was announced.

Michael Cheek, whose son Jason was shot twice, described the sentencing as “bittersweet.”

“I feel sorry for T.J. and his family but he did the crime and he should be punished for it,” Cheek said. Jason Cheek, now a freshman at Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Ky., was not in court.