MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont teen accused of plotting a shooting with mass casualties at his former high school in a case that led to the first significant limits on gun ownership in Vermont was released Friday into the custody of his father.
Jack Sawyer, 18, was released on conditions after posting $10,000 bail. The state’s defender general said he was being placed in a treatment facility on Friday, but would not say where.
Sawyer was arrested the day after the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, shootings that killed 17 people after a friend reported him to authorities. He was charged with attempted murder, accusing him of planning a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School that prosecutors say was outlined in his diary “Journal of an Active Shooter.”
Prosecutors on Monday dropped the most serious charges against him after the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that preparation didn’t constitute attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty to lesser charges of criminal threatening and carrying a dangerous weapon.
His defense team has argued that he didn’t take concrete steps to commit the crime.
Gov. Phil Scott on Friday outlined what the state is doing to enhance the safety of the Fair Haven school and community.
Prosecutor Rose Kennedy used one of the new gun restrictions, obtaining an extreme risk protection order that said Sawyer poses an extreme risk of physical harm to himself and others and is barred from having any firearms.
The Vermont State Police is assisting the local police department by providing personnel, state police cruisers to be periodically posted at schools, as well as a plain clothes trooper periodically posted in and around the school, Scott said. Seven other law enforcement agencies in Vermont and New York are prepared to provide resources if needed, he said.
“As I’ve said, I am extremely concerned and frustrated that our current laws have allowed for the release of an individual who — as the Court record shows — intended, and may still intend, to carry out a horrific crime,” Scott said.
He said his administration would continue to work with the Legislature to change Vermont’s law to criminalize substantial steps to commit mass violence against schools and other public locations.
The state Senate this week approved a new domestic terrorism law that includes that change.
“I want the Fair Haven community to know we stand with them, and I personally share their frustration with the system,” Scott said. “I promise, we are doing everything we can to keep the school and community safe.”
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