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Lawyer Says Georgia Teen Copied Columbine Killers

August 10, 1999|From Reuters

CONYERS, Ga. — A Georgia teenager accused of wounding six classmates in a May shooting rampage was imitating the two Colorado high school students who shot 13 people a month before, a prosecutor said Monday.

At a hearing to decide whether 15-year-old Thomas "T.J." Solomon should be tried as an adult for the shootings at Heritage High School, Dist. Atty. Richard Read said police found a three-page letter in Solomon's bedroom that cited the killings at the Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

The May 20 shootings at Heritage High School in Conyers, Ga., 25 miles east of Atlanta, occurred exactly one month after 15 people, including the two gunmen, were killed in Littleton.

Solomon faces multiple charges of child cruelty and aggravated assault. Georgia doesn't allow for an attempted murder charge. If Solomon is tried as an adult he could face up to 120 years in prison. If tried as a juvenile, Solomon could be sentenced to up to 5 years in custody.

Monday's hearing marked the first time Georgia law enforcement officials linked the Colorado and Georgia school shootings.

Read said Solomon, in the days leading up to the Georgia shootings, seemed obsessed with the April 20 Colorado tragedy and told classmates he was capable of committing such an act.

"In discussing the Columbine shootings, he told them that it was cool, that he could do that himself one day, but that he wouldn't aim at people. He said he would just come in and start firing," Read told Rockdale County Juvenile Judge William Schneider.

Quoting from the teenager's letter, Read said Solomon apparently saw the "Trench Coat Mafia" as his "brothers and sisters." The Trench Coat Mafia was a loosely organized group of social outcasts at the Colorado school to which gunmen Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, belonged.

Read said Solomon apparently admired Harris and Klebold and was emulating their actions on the day of the Georgia shootings.

Assistant Principal Cecil Brinkley, who talked the youth into handing over his gun, told the court that the boy tearfully apologized.

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