T.J. Lane will spend the rest of his days in adult prison. The teenager who opened fire on a group of students in the cafeteria at Chardon High School on Feb. 27, 2012, was sentenced in the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas to three life terms without the possibility of parole.
Perhaps the kindest thing one can say about Lane is that he is one very sick young man. In the courtroom Tuesday, on the day he was sentenced for shooting to death Daniel Parmertor, 16, Demetrius Hewlin, 16, and Russell King Jr., 17, and wounding three other students, the 18-year-old put on a show of utter callousness and contempt for everything that is decent. With “killer” printed on his T-shirt and out of the view of the judge, Lane seemed intent to underscore the horror he had unleashed that day, as if anyone in the courtroom could forget the wounds he inflicted on the quiet suburban community. He topped off the cruelty to the families of his victims with crude insults.
In the wake of a tragedy, an apology, some sense of remorse or some explanation why their children lost their lives might lift a little of the pain of grieving families. But Lane has offered no apology, no explanation why he opened fire with a .22-caliber pistol on a group of students at a school where he was not a student. The prosecutor and the judge both concluded he was not mentally impaired but knew what he was doing the day he attacked.
The gun Lane used belonged to a family member. It is Chardon’s misfortune to become part of a broad national debate about school security and the easy availability of firearms that now includes the massacre of first-graders in Newtown, Conn. For Chardon and a shocked nation, the struggle is how best to stop another T.J. Lane from striking.