'He has a gun': School counselor testifies about wrestling gun away from Eastern Iowa 12-year-old

'He has a gun': School counselor testifies about wrestling gun away from Eastern Iowa 12-year-old

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DAVENPORT --- North Scott Junior High School guidance counselor Holly Leinhauser recalled questioning the intent of then-12-year-old Luke Andrews.

“What were you trying to do?” she asked Andrews, after Andrews allegedly pointed a loaded gun at a teacher and pulled the trigger, according to testimony in a Scott County court room Thursday. “And he said, ‘to end it,’ and then to (end) anyone that got in his way.”

That question came after Leinhauser and the teacher engaged in an “intense struggle” to successfully wrestle a gun away from Andrews in the hallway on the fifth day of the 2019 school year.

Leinhauser is one of eight witnesses, including classmates and teachers, to testify on the first full day of testimony in the now 13-year-old's trial.

Andrews is being tried in adult court as a youthful offender on charges of attempted murder, carrying weapons on school grounds, and assault while using or displaying a dangerous weapon. The trial is expected to last eight days.

Assistant Scott County Attorney Julie Walton said in her opening statement that Andrews was late to class on the morning of Aug. 31, when he came into the classroom of Dawn Spring, a seventh-grade social studies teacher.

The boy dropped a “stack of stuff” down on a desk, pulled a gun from the stack and waved it at the class and quietly told everyone to get down, Walton said.

A student teacher tried to get the attention of Spring, whose back was to the classroom. When Spring turned around and met him at the front of the classroom, the boy pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger. But the gun did not go off.

Spring was then able to knock the gun down away from him.

"He’s still holding it and she says to him, ‘Wow, looks like you’re having a bad day," Walton said. "‘Let’s go talk about it in the hallway.’”

Spring then walked Andrews toward Leinhauser’s office.

Leinhauser said she moved toward the door jam and noticed Spring and Andrews standing there. The boy, with his back toward the area between the bulletin board in the hallway and the doorjamb, started to "kind of slouch a little bit." Spring was holding him and “kind of struggling with him and she kept his hands on him and turned toward me and said, ‘he has a gun.’

"My first thought that I verbalized is, ‘You can't have that. You're going to scare the kids,’” she said.

Leinhauser said Spring and Andrews continued to struggle, and she went in and tried unsuccessfully to take the gun.

During the struggle, Andrews had the gun close to himself, and “was trying not to give it up.

“As I came down, the gun turn toward me,” she said. “I think it was just a reflex, probably. And I can remember looking down at it and pulling and trying to take his fingers off of it. And it was a struggle. I mean, it was just an intense struggle and he was pulling it and moving his fingers at the same time. I got his fingers off of it and pulled it out and stood up.”

That’s when Andrews screamed, “Don’t hold it like that! You’re gonna make it go off,” Leinhauser said.

She eventually got the gun away from him, put it behind her back and intended to take it to the front office and then stopped and gave it to Spring because “I thought I should be with him. I am the school counselor.”

Eldridge Police Officer Bruce Schwarz, who serves as the school district’s school resource officer, testified that Spring put the gun and magazine in the freezer of a refrigerator in the faculty storage area.

Walton said in her opening statement that there were 11 cartridges in the magazine in one in the chamber.

The boy did not want to get off the floor until Leinhauser’s secretary asked him if he would like to meet the school’s therapy dog, Corwin. The two then went to pet the dog.

She said she spoke briefly to the school principal and associate principal and turned back to the boy.

Once she got the boy to sit down, she asked him if he wanted to play a game.

When Eldridge Police Sgt. Joseph Sisler asked the boy if he had anything else on him, Andrews said in a sing-song voice, “No, no I don’t have anything else,” and that he didn’t know if anybody else at school had a gun.

She said Sisler handcuffed the boy and sat him back down. At one point, Andrews said, “There was only 12 bullets."

"Just like trying to make light of it almost," she said.

Leinhauser said Andrews told her that he had gotten in trouble at home — he didn’t say why — and that his punishment had been to clean the whole house and vacuum.

She asked him about the gun and he said it was locked up but “it wasn’t hard to figure out where the key was” at home.

Leinhauser said the two talked for a bit and she told him to help her understand what had happened. She recalled commenting, “So you got in trouble at home and you brought a gun to school.

“And he turned his body completely away from me and looked at the side wall and in an elevated voice (said) ‘Well, now that you said it out loud, it doesn't make sense. I should've just did it at home,’” she said.

A classmate of Andrews’ testified Thursday that the day before the incident, she saw photos of handguns on the boy’s school-issued Chromebook. Another classmate testified that Andrews asked her on Aug. 30 if she would “tell” if he had a gun.

Erin Paysen, associate principal at the junior high, said Spring had emailed her and told her that she had concerns that Andrews was looking up games and political and gun-related things on the Chromebook. The three had met on Aug. 30 to discuss the school's Chromebook policy, she said.

Defense attorney Meenakshi Brandt told jurors that Andrews made a “really bad decision” that day. That doesn’t mean, however, that he “attempted to commit murder.”

“Some of the evidence that’s going to come in is going to be hard to hear, but we need you to pay attention and really listen to what’s going on and really listen to what Luke knew about guns,” she said. “Listen to what Luke knew about gun safety.

“Make sure that you’re listening to the indications of Luke’s behavior, the attention-seeking behavior. How Luke acted on the school bus, how he acted in the classroom on the days prior, how he acted with his classmates and all the attention-seeking behavior."

Testimony will continue Friday.


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