Newly-released documents reveal there was no specific target when a 15-year-old boy opened fire on fellow students in a Butler County school cafeteria.
In an exclusive interview with the news outlet, Butler County Sheriff’s Detective Michael Barger said Austin Hancock told investigators he did have a problem with another student at Madison Jr./Sr. High School, but that person wasn’t in the cafeteria at the time of the Feb. 29 shooting.
“The reason he gave for shooting was his home life. His mom doesn’t watch any of his sporting events and dad was on his case for his grades and he has a lot of chores. Hancock further stated he was always grounded (at least seven months out of the year),” the investigation report says.
Hancock told detectives that he took the gun from his grandmother’s home in Dayton the night before. Photos taken at Hancock’s Madison Twp. home, where he lived with his father and stepmother, also show several guns in a locked closet.
In the report, written by Barger, Hancock said when a girl was on her way to tell school authorities about the handgun, a Sig Sauer P238, in his backpack, “he knew he didn’t want to go home and started (shooting).”
Hancock, who entered a true plea in April to four counts of attempted murder and inducing panic, was sentenced earlier this month to juvenile detention until he is 21 years old. He will be free at age 21 unless he causes problems in juvenile custody, which could lead to possible time in the adult prison system.
Hancock spoke in court before learning his fate, saying, “I would like the victims to know they were not targeted.”
Hancock told Whitlock the same thing during questioning, according to the report.
“He never had a specific target in mind but just fired at a group of kids,” according to the report.
The sheriff’s office released a large chunk on the investigation file Friday from the shooting that injured four students.
Scene photos — some graphic showing blood — and photos of Hancock’s Browns Run Road residence are included in the case file as well as 911 calls, emergency traffic from fire and police and audios of interviews with students at the school.
Portions are redacted due to a case still pending against two 14-year-old boys who are charged with not reporting a crime after Hancock showed them the gun on the morning before shots rang out.
One student told Butler County Sheriff’s detectives that he saw the gun four times that morning before the shooting. Another told detectives he saw the gun six times the day of the shooting.
Hancock’s recorded statement is also not included because it makes too many references to the still pending cases, said Sgt. Rob Whitlock. The two boys are facing misdemeanor charges and are scheduled to be in juvenile court in August.
Two students were hit with bullets — 15-year-old Cameron Smith and 14-year-old Cooper Caffrey — and two others were injured while escaping — 15-year-old Brant Murray and 14-year-old Katherine Douchette. All students are recovering.
Caffrey told detectives he was Hancock’s friend, noting they wrestled together. He said they exchanged text messages just days before the shooting about attending a sports banquet.
Caffrey said he went into the bathroom shortly before the shooting and saw one of the boys who is now charged with not reporting a crime feeling sick.
“Something didn’t seem right,” Caffrey said.
At lunch, Caffrey said he saw Hancock with a “black revolver in his hand.”
“I tried to get up and run, but I couldn’t, there was blood and I fell,” he said.
Caffrey said Hancock had talked about a school shooting in the past.
“Heard him say in the past he was going to do it, but I thought he was just joking around,” Caffrey said.
Defense attorney Charlie Rittgers said after Hancock’s sentencing, “It is just an act the defies explanation.”
On Friday, he stood by that statement, adding he could not get in contact with Hancock’s parents immediately, but he doubted they would have comment.
Hancock’s large extended family attended all court hearings and showed support for the teen.
At the sentencing, Hancock’s biological mother, Kristi Blevins, also spoke, stating he is not “an ordinary, self-absorbed criminal with no regard for others.”
“With guidance and God’s help, Austin has potential to get back on the right path,” Blevins said.