Oakland Elementary School shooting

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Oakland Elementary School Shooting
Part of mass shootings in the United States
Jamie Wilson.png
Wilson being taken to court during his 1988 trial
LocationGreenwood, South Carolina, United States
Coordinates34°13′37″N 82°08′27″W / 34.2269°N 82.1408°W / 34.2269; -82.1408Coordinates: 34°13′37″N 82°08′27″W / 34.2269°N 82.1408°W / 34.2269; -82.1408
DateSeptember 26, 1988 (1988-09-26)
11:30 a.m.
Attack type
School shooting
Weapons9-shot .22-caliber revolver
PerpetratorJames William Wilson

The Oakland Elementary School shooting was a school shooting in 1988 in Greenwood, South Carolina, United States, in which 19-year-old James William Wilson, Jr., shot and killed two 8-year-old students, and wounded seven other students, a teacher and gym coach at a public elementary school. He shot people in the cafeteria and in a classroom.[1] Wilson had a history of mental illness.

The shooting[edit]

On the morning of the shooting, James William Wilson took a revolver from the mantel at his maternal grandmother's home. She had bought it for self-defense. He drove to Sky City, a local department store, where he bought two boxes of ammunition, then drove to Greenwood and to Oakland Elementary School. He walked in the front door and went to the cafeteria, where children were gathered for lunch.

At 11:30 a.m. on September 26, 1988, the gunman entered Oakland Elementary School and started firing shots in the cafeteria, where at least 100 students were seated for lunch. He wounded two students and a first-grade teacher.[2] He went into a boys' restroom, reloaded his gun, and left. He was confronted by physical education teacher Kat Finkbeiner, who accosted him and tried to stop him in the restroom; he shot her twice, wounding her.[3] Survivors were evacuated from the cafeteria by teachers and staff, and towards a wooded area, others hid in the cafeteria's freezer before moving towards the woods.[2]

He then entered a third-grade classroom and shot at the teacher, missing and hitting the blackboard. Wilson turned toward the students and opened fire, killing Shequila Bradley and Tequila Thomas, both eight years old, and wounding five students. Finkbeiner entered the room and tried to force him to surrender but he kept firing.

When the police arrived, principal, Eleanor Rice had made contact with the gunman, searched him for weapons, and had teacher, Phillip Browning stand with the gunman while Eleanor Rice left to find the police. Police were taken to the gunman's location where they arrested him. They identified him as James William Wilson, Jr.


Shequila Bradley died at the scene,[4] while Tequila Thomas died at Self Memorial Hospital three days after the shooting.[5]


James William Wilson, Jr. (born April 13, 1969[6]) was 19 years old, unemployed, and living a rather isolated life with his paternal grandmother. He had frequently been a patient at psychiatric hospitals, starting at the age of 14.[7] He was treated with Benzodiazepine drug Xanax to address anxiety and depression. He got relief from his symptoms with this medication. His family's insurance eventually ran out and he was no longer able to be treated as an in-patient.[3] After losing the medication of Xanax, Wilson suffered depression. He was bullied by contemporaries for being overweight and for his style of dress.[citation needed]

Prosecution and sentencing[edit]

He was indicted for two counts of murder, nine counts of assault and battery with intent to kill, and one count of carrying a firearm. Wilson was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death by electric chair. For the other charges he was sentenced to 175 years' imprisonment.[8] He has been imprisoned on death row for 33 years, and his attorneys have sought an appeal to his sentence.[7][9]


After the shooting the teachers employed methods to help the students such as reducing the noise of the chairs with felt on their feet, and placing a large cupboard by the door to have something to barricade the entrance.[10]

Memorials and tribute[edit]

A memorial garden was created in honor of the two deceased students and was created as "...a better place for their families to come and remember them."[11] A memorial nature trail was also constructed with two benches, two birdhouses and two plaques behind the school.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "postandcourier - After Newtown, residents of Greenwood, killer's mother relive school shooting". Post and Courier.
  2. ^ a b agilreath@indexjournal.com, ARIEL GILREATH. "30 years later, Oakland survivors relive trauma as bloodshed continues". Index-Journal. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  3. ^ a b "nytimes.com - Man Held in School Shooting Is Depicted as Jobless Recluse". The New York Times. 28 September 1988.
  4. ^ "Herald-Journal - Community Mourns Slain Girl at Funeral". news.google.com.
  5. ^ "Times Daily - Second victim dies from wounds; school reopens". news.google.com.
  6. ^ "South Carolina Department of Corrections" (PDF). doc.sc.gov. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 21, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Gormley, Kara (July 10, 2006). "WisTV - 18 years on death row: The shootings". wistv.com. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  8. ^ Rinker, Wanda. "Oakland Elementary shooting revisited in program at Lander". Index-Journal. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  9. ^ "SCDC Search for James Wilson".
  10. ^ ddominguez@indexjournal.com, DAMIAN DOMINGUEZ. "'I never understood how he could do that': Lecture recalls Oakland shooting, 30 years later". Index-Journal. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  11. ^ ddominguez@indexjournal.com, DAMIAN DOMINGUEZ. "Survivors honor Oakland shooting victims by tending to their garden". Index-Journal. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  12. ^ Knapp, Andrew. "S.C. mom recalls the horror, guilt 24 years ago, her son shot and killed 2 young girls at school". Post and Courier. Retrieved 2018-10-17.