More news has been released about Monday’s shooting at Watson Chapel Junior High in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. As you may recall, 15-year-old Thomas Quarles is accused of shooting 15-year-old Daylon Burnett Monday morning in a hallway of the school. Tragically, Daylon died from his injuries on Wednesday.
First, I want to start off with an apology. For years, I’ve been trying to make distinctions between ‘traditional’ school shootings (mass shootings with random targets) and ‘shootings at school’ (specified target, shooter has a grudge). I made that pedantic argument in the past because of certain organizations that would refer to anything remotely related to guns and schools as a school shooting. I felt that organizations who were too hyperbolic with statistics weren’t helping anybody. As I am wont to say, when you claim everything is a school shooting then nothing is a school shooting. I’ve been guilty of the reverse. These one-on-one school shootings tend to be at less affluent and more urban schools. In my defense, I have written about shootings like this and demanded justice for the victims. However, in my mind, I considered them to be two different types of shootings. You can accuse me of being prejudiced even though that was never my intent.
Unfortunately, I did that with this shooting. When I first wrote about it, I was mistakenly under the impression that Daylon Burnett was going to survive his injuries even though he was reported as being in critical condition. Thursday afternoon, Lady Gray told me that she had read that Daylon died. My heart sank. I felt horrible for thinking of this as ‘not a school shooting’.
Is the pain Daylon’s family feels any less legitimate than those who have lost loved ones in a more infamous school shooting? Are the students of Watson Chapel Junior High any less traumatized because only one person was shot? Should their safety be any less of a concern just because they live in an economically disadvantaged area? The answer to all of those questions is obviously no. Going forward I will no longer consider shootings like this to be any different from those that grab bigger headlines. I pray that there are no more shootings like this or one that grab bigger headlines, but the reality is we all know there will be.
Now, on to the news.
The shooter, 15-year-old Thomas Quarles, has been charged with capital murder. Before Daylon died, Quarles had been charged as an adult with first-degree battery. Prosecutors have not stated whether or not Quarles will be charged as an adult in the capital murder charge. In Arkansas, juveniles charged as adults with murder can be sentenced to life but are eligible for parole after 25 years.
While no motive has been released for the shooting yet, Daylon and Quarles were said to be friends prior to Monday. However, on the day of the shooting, Quarles was said to be actively searching for Daylon that morning. Daylon’s mother said the pair had recently had an argument. I can’t imagine what argument would cause a 15-year-old to take another 15-year-old’s life, but I can guarantee you it wasn’t worth picking up a gun.
I still haven’t seen any news on how Quarles obtained the gun.
Again, if you can afford it and find it in your heart, please consider donating to the GoFundMe set up for Daylon’s passing.