School-shooting suspect sentenced to time served, will spend years in mental facility

10:43 AM, Nov 11, 2011   |    comments
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It was a fact that did not escape the notice of the admittedly frustrated prosecutor who had been the one responsible for taking the case to trial in the first place.

"[Eastwood] is definitely a community safety risk," Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey said. "There's no doubt he's a community safety risk."

Minutes later, Judge Christopher Munch gave Eastwood credit for time served and ordered the diagnosed schizophrenic to go to the State Hospital in Pueblo for an indeterminate amount of time.

"This case should have never gone to trial," defense attorney Katherine Spengler said afterwards. "There were two court-appointed psychiatrists who were charged with neutrality who individually evaluated Mr. Eastwood and [both] found that he was legally insane at the time of the shooting."

Eastwood's role in the Feb. 23, 2010, shootings outside of Deer Creek Middle School was never in doubt over the course of the trial. Both sides agreed that Eastwood walked up to the school, armed with his father's hunting rifle, and pointed that gun at a number of students who had assembled near the front of the school at the end of the school day.

Matt Thieu, 15, and Regan Weber, 16, survived the attack. Both students, now in high school, took the stand during the trial.

On Thursday, Eastwood for the very first time publicly apologized for the crime.

"Mea culpa," he said in front of the packed courtroom. "I apologize on my behalf. The words can't express how remorseful I am about my reactions to my mental illness. I am sorry."

"I have lost a lot more than my dignity and respect. I have lost a lot of forgoing perspective into my life. I've lost everything," he added.

Dr. David Benke, the school's math teacher, was largely credited for ending the shooting last year when he tackled Eastwood while he was trying to reload. On Thursday, he said he believed Eastwood should never be allowed to walk the world as a free man.

"Who is going to follow him around and make sure he takes [his medication]?" he asked the judge. "When are we going to know that he's OK?"

Storey wondered the same thing.

"When [Eastwood] is not on his meds, he's a dangerous person," he said after the hearing.

Part of the complex case revolved around the idea of Eastwood's mental state at the specific time of the shooting. While the jury did find Eastwood not guilty by reason of insanity for the most serious charges, it did find him guilty of possessing a gun on school grounds. So, in essence, the jury believed that Eastwood was able to distinguish between right and wrong when he brought his father's rifle to the school, but unable to distinguish between the two when he fired off a pair of shots.

"All of a sudden, he can't tell the difference between right and wrong?" Storey argued during Thursday's sentencing hearing. "I can't put my arms around [that]."

Judge Munch found the jury's decision legally sound. During the sentencing, Storey unsuccessfully tried to argue that Eastwood should at least have to serve a year and a half in jail, having been found guilty on the weapons charge. Judge Munch determined Eastwood had already been incarcerated for much more than that period of time and gave him credit for time served.

Eastwood has spent 600 days in incarceration.

During the trial, Weber recalled the day of the shootings, "A man came around the corner [of the school] and asked if we went to that school. I heard a shot. It was really loud."

Battling through tears during her testimony, Weber pointed at Eastwood when she was asked by Storey who had shot at her that day. Eastwood, who was sitting just a few feet away from the witness stand, looked at her but did not show a reaction.

Thieu told the jury he "heard a loud bang" that at first he "didn't recognize."

"I just remember everybody running," he said. Shortly after, he said, "I heard the second shot and then I was on the [ground]... I fell from the gunshot, and I was screaming for help."

During opening statements during Eastwood's trial, Eastwood's defense tried to portray their client as a man who was dealing with inner demons. His attorneys said Eastwood first started to show signs of schizophrenia in 2002, right around the time a Nielson TV rating's box was placed inside of his apartment.

As proof, his attorneys showed the jury a number of journal entries written by Eastwood over the last decade, describing what Eastwood called a "mutant rapture" that revolved around "mutants" trying to take over his body.

"I look and no one is there," read one journal entry. "But I feel them breathe. I feel them climb into my bed."

Eventually, his attorneys said Eastwood started to come up with names of the "mutants" that were trying to ruin his life. They went by names like Matt, Ben, Keith and Timothy.

"They want me to have nothing, stop me with whatever they can, including death, but instead they leave me in suffering and alive, but in pain," another entry said.

The journal entries continued for years, even up to the very day before the shootings.

It was these journal entries and testimonies that led the jury to find him not guilty by reason of insanity previously.

Eastwood will not be released into the public just yet. He will go to the state hospital in Pueblo where he will be continually evaluated. He will be released only when the hospital officials think he's no longer a danger to society.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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