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Former school shooter praises Parkland students, gun control efforts

He called the man who thwarted his 2004 attack a 'hero.'


Chris Tognotti


Posted on Mar 4, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 10:53 pm CDT

A former school shooter who’s still behind bars for his crimes has come out in favor of gun control, praising the activist students and survivors of the Parkland shooting. In 2004, 16-year-old Jon Romano arrived at Columbia High School in East Greenbush, New York, carrying a loaded pump-action shotgun.

Romano had intended to carry out one of those grisly schools shootings that have become so routine in recent years. But before he could kill anyone, he was tackled and disarmed by the school’s principal, John Sawchuk. One teacher was reportedly shot in the leg, according to the Times Union, but mercifully, nobody was killed.

Now, writing from Coxsackie Correctional Facility where he’s held to this day, Romano is praising the Parkland students, and calling the man who disarmed him all those years ago a “hero.”

John Sawchuk is a hero who I owe my life to,” Romano wrote, according to the Times Union. “I know whenever another horrible shooting happens, he and all of my victims are hurt all over again from what I did to them. I want to take away their pain but knowing that I cannot, I want to prevent others from experiencing this pain.”

Romano also specifically acknowledged the students’ efforts to apply political pressure aimed at changing America’s gun laws.

“I believe the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland are courageous and inspiring for demanding action from politicians,” Romano wrote. “Everyone nationwide should accept nothing less than meaningful, life-saving policy changes from their representatives. Only then could this generation be the last generation that lives in a nation plagued by gun violence.”

The letter from Romano was spurred by a Feb. 21 piece in the Times Union, in which columnist Chris Churchill spoke with Sawchuk about the Parkland shooting and asked him if he believed the Columbia High School shooting would have been worse if Romano had been armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 rather than a shotgun.

“I think a lot of people would have been dead,” Sawchuk told Churchill.

As Romano referenced in the letter, Romano is slated to be released from prison in 2021, and he says he plans to work as an anti-gun violence and mental health advocate once he’s out.

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*First Published: Mar 4, 2018, 12:46 pm CST