A security guard on duty at Arapahoe High School when a student shot and killed a classmate claims school officials ignored warning signs before the attack.
Cameron Rust, who said he joined the security staff last year, wrote in a Facebook post Thursday that Karl Pierson was a known threat, and he holds high school administrators responsible for a lack of action.
Pierson, 18, entered the school Dec. 13 armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, machete, Molotov cocktails and more than 125 rounds of ammunition. He shot fellow senior Claire Davis, 17, and minutes later killed himself, but authorities have said the weaponry he packed was a sign that he meant to harm many. Claire died eight days later.
“Karl Pierson was a known threat for a long time, he should have gotten the necessary help and appropriate resources should have been involved,” Rust wrote in the lengthy posting. “The fact of the matter, people are dead. The decisions that were made did not help to prevent the shooting.”
Rust said he and fellow security officers had reported to administrators that Pierson was looking up guns on his computer in the cafeteria, that he drew “questionable” symbols on his math tests, that he had outbursts of anger and that teachers “can refer to many other incidents that were reported to Administration regarding Karl.”
Rust said Pierson was sent home from school the day before the shooting “due to anger outburst to another teacher.”
Authorities have said Pierson shot Claire, then headed toward the school's library, where he meant to kill librarian and debate coach Tracy Murphy. Pierson had apparently been harboring a grudge against Murphy over a disciplinary issue related to the debate team and had made a verbal threat against him in September that was reported to police.
Rust cites the threat against Murphy among a list of “prior warnings.” Rather than dealing with the problem, Rust said, school administrators made comments such as “We will read about that kid (Karl) in the news someday, it just won't be at Arapahoe.”
Rust said security officers were reprimanded when they documented their concerns and presented them to administrators, who he said told them “not to put things in writing.”
After Thursday night's Littleton Public Schools board meeting, Superintendent Scott Murphy refused to speak specifically about Rust's comments, citing the pending investigation and “fairness to all individuals.”
“I have such a belief in the positive goodwill and good intentions of all people. Trauma affects all individuals, including myself, in different ways, and our perceptions of the past and our hopes for the future are embedded in our experiences,” he said. “I want to allow the Arapahoe County sheriff the right to investigate. I have always respected that.”
Rust said he has been placed on paid administrative leave and “banned from the campus” because “I would not hug and walked away from principal (Natalie) Pramenko during the Monday December 16th staff meeting and at Claire Davis' Memorial Service.”
When reached late Thursday, Rust declined to comment on his post but said he would answer more questions Friday.
Rust's statements were made on a Facebook page called “Bring Back Cameron Rust AHS.” The page, set up by students about two weeks ago, had the stated goal of getting Rust reinstated. The page had 1,177 members as of Friday afternoon.
In a post at 3:15 p.m. Thursday, Rust advised that he would soon post information on why “Claire Davis and Karl Pierson did not have to die.” His long posting followed four hours later.
After Rust's posting, some students responded that they were concerned about whether his comments would split the school community.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson declined to comment on Rust's accusations but said in an e-mail to The Denver Post that Rust was “the subject of interviews” from the start of the shooting investigation, and that detectives plan to interview him again.
“The critical responsibility of determining the truth, established by facts and evidence, is our key focus and absolute responsibility to the community and to the Davis family. That responsibility will be accomplished in a complete and thorough manner,” Robinson wrote. “There will be no further comment regarding this matter, at this point in time, as we will not be distracted from our critical responsibilities of the ongoing investigation, nor will we tolerate any effort to divert our attention or obstruct our investigative responsibilities.”
In his posting, Rust said school officials had kept him and the other on-duty security guards away from investigators at the school on Dec. 18. He said the school human resources director told him that “Administration does not want you here because of the prior concerns you had raised and the belief that we would create a hostile work environment.”
In the posting, Rust said he and the other security guards were treated differently after the shooting than other first responders. The other guards were reinstated after meeting with a school psychologist and the human resources director. Rust says he met with the psychologist, but the HR director has not set up a meeting. He said that superintendent Murphy has not responded to his e-mails or met with him and that the school board has told him to contact the superintendent.
In addition to being a security guard, Rust is defensive coordinator of the school's varsity football team and coaches the sophomore baseball team.
Denver Post staff writers Ryan Parker and Zahira Torres contributed to this report.