school shooter speaking with caption 'I am a school shooter' (l) woman speaking in front of tan background (c) school shooter speaking with caption 'I have a lot of videos where I try to address this issue' (r)

@jonseekingpeace/TikTok @julesbonss/TikTok Remix by Caterina Cox

A former school shooter is sharing his story on TikTok—but some feel he should stay silent

'Your redemption arc after shooting up a school [is] to be moving in silence.'


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Oct 4, 2023   Updated on Oct 9, 2023, 12:36 pm CDT

Jon Romano, a school shooter who served time in prison, has been posting TikToks about his past. However, many believe that his re-entry into society shouldn’t be so public.

Romano, who posts on TikTok as @jonseekingpeace, shot and injured a teacher at his high school, Columbia High School in upstate New York when he was 16 years old in 2004.

He was tackled and apprehended by the school’s assistant principal and served a 17-year sentence in prison. Now, Romano is posting on TikTok “after being a part of the problem,” because he feels it’s time for him “to be a part of the solution,” as explained in his TikTok bio. As of publication, Romano has almost 255,000 followers on TikTok.

In a video in which he tells his story, Romano recounts his mindset leading up to bringing a shotgun to his high school, the work he did in prison to focus on his mental health, and how he started speaking up about school shootings and gun violence after the Parkland shooting. After he was released from prison, he spoke with law enforcement and local schools about how to prevent school shootings.

“I had to be a part of the change [that] wasn’t coming,” Romano says of gun violence in America in a TikTok. “I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I don’t want people to forgive me.”

And Romano has doubled down on his message when commenters have asked why he’s chosen TikTok as his medium for spreading his message.

“I talk with people on here… [about the] disturbed mindset that I had leading up to the shooting,” Romano says in a video. “I believe that we can intervene with those who are on a dark path and help them get on a better, healthier path.”

@jonseekingpeace Replying to @secondplanetfromthesun I share my unique insights to help prevent future tragedies #momsdemandaction #marchforourlives #reform #truecrimetok #jonromano ♬ original sound – Jon Romano

He’s also said that his goal is not redemption for what he has done, but to prevent more school shootings.

But to some, his TikTok presence seems like a “redemption arc.”

TikToker @alyssaphobium posted about Romano’s video concerning him being a victim of a knife attack by an unhoused person who called him “the white devil.” @alyssaphobium says that Romano should not be on TikTok, monetizing the storytelling of his crimes, or seeking attention at all.

“This school shooter has been able to amass a following of over 250,000 people on an app made for children,” she says in her TikTok. “Your redemption arc after shooting up a school [is] to be moving in silence—not boasting about how you’ve become a better person.”

Similarly, TikToker @julesbonss called Romano’s TikTok presence insidious, dystopian, and an example of white privilege. What’s more, she says that Romano’s videos show radicalized people who want to shoot up schools and that there can be a “light at the end of the tunnel” for them through online fame.

“You might be able to go to far in the world as to garner 255,000 people to follow you. And like the things you post,” @julesbonss says, indicating what Romano is telling other school shooters. “You will gain a following … that is made up of people that are trying to somehow give you some level of support.”

The TikToker also says that Romano, who is white, was released from prison while many people of color spend their lives in prison “based off of bullsh*t notions around drugs.”

According to a 2023 Pew Research study, Black people are held longer in jail than their white and Hispanic counterparts. Per a 2017 study from the United States Sentencing Commission, “Black male offenders continued to receive longer sentences… than similarly situated White male offenders.”

“This cannot be how we, as a society, have decided that we are going to function,” @julesbonss says.

In response to the backlash, Romano participated in TikTok live he did with Aunt Karen, a TikToker who regularly calls out racism on the app and online, earlier this week.

Aunt Karen, whose real name is Denise Bradley, says that Romano is “being given grace on [TikTok] for no reason,” and is “strictly on this app benefitting off the fact that you went to jail, to prison for 17 years for being a school shooter.”

“You have been promoting [the knife attack Romano was a victim of],” Bradley says of Romano’s TikToks. “And not really talking about the issue.”

He also responded to the Daily Dot’s request for comment with a statement regarding the criticism he has received for building a platform on his past.

“I weighed out if my speaking publicly would help more people than it would hurt. Because I know my sharing my story hurts people, but I do believe I am helping,” Romano told the Daily Dot. “Despite the current backlash I am receiving, which I completely understand, I also continue to get a lot of people reaching out to me thanking me for what I do.”

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*First Published: Oct 4, 2023, 1:24 pm CDT