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Jan. 21, 2022

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Freeman High School shooter pleads guilty to murder

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SPOKANE — A former high school student accused of killing one classmate and wounding three others during a shooting at Freeman High School in Washington state in 2017 pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of premediated murder, three counts of attempted murder and numerous counts of second-degree assault.

Caleb Sharpe, 20, will be sentenced on Jan. 18 in Spokane County Superior Court.

Sharpe entered his plea Thursday morning in a courtroom packed with family members and law enforcement. Ami Strahan, whose son was killed in the shooting, sat in the front row, The Spokesman-Review reported.

Sharpe was 15 when he shot and killed 15-year-old classmate Sam Strahan on Sept. 13, 2017, and wounded three other students before he was disarmed by a custodian. The assault charges cover students who were in the vicinity of the shootings at the rural high school south of Spokane but were not injured.

Superior Court Judge Michael Price had recently rebuffed Sharpe’s defense team from offering a diminished capacity or insanity defense. Price also ruled that Sharpe would be tried as an adult, despite being a juvenile when he went to school armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a .32-caliber handgun.

Sharpe has remained in the Spokane County Jail since his arrest.

His trial was scheduled to begin Jan. 18.

Freeman High School officials said in an emailed statement they were relieved the case had been settled.

“This has been a very difficult four years to endure for our Freeman community, especially for the families of the victims,” the statement said. “The plea agreement closes this chapter of the tragedy and avoids having to experience the trauma all over again.”

The judge was originally set to hear arguments Thursday on whether the trial should be moved to another county, as the defense believed media coverage of the case would impact their ability to select a fair and impartial jury.

Sharpe faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Defense attorneys asked for a reduced sentence of 20 years because he was a juvenile at the time.

On the day of the shootings, Sharpe brought a duffel bag onto his school bus which contained the AR-15 and handgun, along with numerous boxes of .223 ammunition.

At school Sharpe headed straight to a second-floor hallway, where he dropped the duffel 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 up the school,” Strahan told Sharpe, according to court documents. “You know that is going to get you in trouble.”

Sharpe then pulled the pistol from under his coat and fired a single shot, striking Strahan in the stomach. Strahan collapsed forward, at which point Sharpe shot him again, this time in the face.

Sharpe continued to walk down the hallway and shot and wounded three more students at random.

After firing into the crowd, Sharpe threw the handgun down. At this point he was confronted by custodian Joe Bowen. Sharpe raised his hands above his head in surrender as Bowen approached.

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