Bethel Regional High School shooting

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Bethel Regional High School shooting
Part of mass shootings in the United States
Location of Bethel Regional High School is located in Alaska
Location of Bethel Regional High School
Location of Bethel Regional High School
Location of Bethel Regional High School (Alaska)
LocationBethel, Alaska, U.S.
Coordinates60°48′08″N 161°46′14″W / 60.8021°N 161.7705°W / 60.8021; -161.7705
DateFebruary 19, 1997
Attack type
School shooting, spree killing
WeaponsMossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun
PerpetratorEvan Ramsey
MotiveSchool bullying, Psychological trauma

The Bethel Regional High School shooting was a school shooting that occurred on February 19, 1997, when student Evan Ramsey shot and killed two people and wounded two others at Bethel Regional High School in Bethel, Alaska. Ramsey is serving two 99-year prison sentences and will be eligible for parole in 2066 when he is 85.[citation needed]

Prior events[edit]

Reports say in the two weeks prior to the incident, more than 15 students knew of Ramsey's intention to commit a school shooting, and two actually assisted him.[1] One student named James Randall taught him how to load and fire a shotgun, and another named Matthew Charles told him of the infamy that would come.[2] Reports say that several students brought cameras to school on the day of the shooting, and that many students were watching the shooting from a library balcony overlooking the student commons area.[3]


On February 19, 1997, Ramsey armed himself with a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun, and arrived at Bethel Regional High School by school bus. He approached the student commons area, brandishing the shotgun, and shot 15-year-old Josh Palacios in the abdomen, who later died after emergency surgery. He then shot and injured two other students. Reyne Athanas, an art teacher, entered the commons area after hearing the gunshots. Athanas said she tried and failed to convince Ramsey to surrender. He then entered the main lobby, where he shot principal Ron Edwards twice, killing him. Ramsey then retreated to the commons area, shooting once at police. An officer returned fire, but Ramsey was uninjured.[4] Ramsey later placed the shotgun barrel under his chin, but then reportedly said, "I don't want to die," laid the shotgun on the ground, and surrendered without further incident.[citation needed]


Ramsey was believed to be frequently bullied at school.[5][6][7] According to his friends, Ramsey complained of being harassed and teased by other students, even to the extent of only addressing him as "Screech", a character from the NBC TV series Saved by the Bell.[6] In addition to being picked on by peers, however, Ramsey had a long history of abuse. His mother lived with a series of violent men who abused Ramsey and his brothers. He also was physically and sexually abused by an older boy in one of the foster homes he was placed.[8]


Evan Ramsey
Born (1981-02-08) February 8, 1981 (age 41)
Criminal statusIncarcerated
MotiveSchool bullying, Psychological trauma
Criminal chargeMurder, attempted murder, assault
Penalty198 years in prison
Date apprehended
December 2, 1998

Evan Ramsey was born February 8, 1981 to Don and Carol Ramsey. When he was five years old, his father was imprisoned for 10 years after a police standoff and his mother became an alcoholic. Ramsey and his family soon after were forced to relocate to the Anchorage area after their house was set on fire. When he was seven, the Anchorage Department of Youth and Family Services removed Ramsey and his two brothers from his mother's custody and placed them in foster care. He was soon separated from his older brother, John, and lived in eleven different foster homes in the 3 years between 1988 and 1991.[2] Ramsey and his younger brother were allegedly abused by several foster parents. His younger brother, William, claimed that their foster brothers would pay other children to beat Evan for their amusement.[citation needed]

At age 10, Ramsey and both brothers (older brother, John and younger brother, William) settled in Bethel, Alaska, with their foster mother, Sue Hare, who later became their legal guardian.[9] Ramsey has suffered from depression since early childhood, and attempted suicide when he was 10 years old.[2]


Ramsey was not the first in his family to take a firearm into a public place. In October 1986, his father, Don Ramsey, went to the Anchorage Times newspaper office armed with an Armalite AR-18 rifle, a revolver, and more than 210 rounds of ammunition. While inside the building, Don Ramsey began taking hostages and was involved in a brief standoff with police until he surrendered. His motive for doing this was because he was angered that the Times refused to publish a political letter he had written. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and was paroled just several weeks before his son Evan perpetrated the school shooting.[2] Also, a week before Evan's attack, his older brother was arrested for armed robbery.[10]


Following his arrest, Ramsey claimed he did not understand his actions would kill anyone.[1] His trial was delayed as prosecutors discussed whether Ramsey should be tried as a juvenile or as an adult. Prosecutors decided to try Ramsey as an adult in Anchorage. On December 2, 1998, Ramsey was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree attempted murder, and fifteen counts of third-degree assault. Judge Mark Isaac Wood sentenced him to 210 years in prison; on appeal, however, his sentence was reduced to two 99-year prison sentences.[11] He was initially imprisoned at the Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward before being moved to the Wildwood Correctional Complex around 2017, and will be eligible for parole in 2066, when he will be 85 years old.[12]

On February 15, 2006, Ramsey participated in an interview with Anderson Cooper titled In the Mind of a Killer, in which his father Don Ramsey blamed the video game Doom for the shooting.[13] His crime was also profiled on the Court TV series Anatomy of a Crime. Ramsey's actions were also covered in the program Kids Who Kill which also featured interviews with Ramsey.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "School shooter: "I didn't realize they would die"". 2008-06-11. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  2. ^ a b c d Rage: a look at a teen killer (March 7, 2001)
  3. ^ "School shooters usually tell friends their plans". Archived from the original on 2010-01-03. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
  4. ^ Baxter, Jenn (2021-05-10). "Evan Ramsey: Alaska's First School Shooter". Medium. Retrieved 2021-08-21.
  5. ^ Bethel remembers and reflects on school shooting anniversary[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ a b "/0,8599,127231,00.html Young Voices from the Cell". Retrieved 2013-06-11.[dead link]
  7. ^ "Bethel works to prevent bullying". Archived from the original on 2009-05-16. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
  8. ^ Langman, Peter. Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Pages 113-114.
  9. ^ "Evan Ramsey: Alaska's First School Shooter". 10 May 2021.
  10. ^ Langman, Peter. Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Page 115.
  11. ^ "Microsoft Word - Ramsey Resentencing 062104_1.doc" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  12. ^ "Twenty years after the Bethel School shooting". 23 February 2017.
  13. ^ "Video games cause school shootings". Archived from the original on 2012-02-23. Retrieved 2013-06-11.

External links[edit]