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The Roanoke Times
CHRISTIANSBURG — Kristina Bousserghine moved to the United States with her family in 2007 with plans of making a life. But after being shot in back last year while writing an English paper at New River Community College’s satellite facility, she said she plans on moving back to Europe.
“I don’t want to stay here,” Bousserghine testified Wednesday. “Because I’m constantly fearing someone is going to walk in with a gun.”
The man who shot Bousserghine and part-time employee Taylor Sharpe Schumann at the school’s New River Valley Mall site was sentenced Wednesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court to 38 years in prison.
Neil MacInnis, 20, pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of aggravated malicious wounding and two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Both Bousserghine and Schumann testified for the first time Wednesday at MacInnis’ sentencing hearing and said their lives have permanently changed since the shootings on April 12, 2013.
MacInnis, who was a student at the community college, also spoke for the first time. Though he showed little to no emotion, as he has throughout his proceedings, he read a prepared statement and told the victims to “hold on and be strong.”
Three videos of security camera footage were played Wednesday that show MacInnis as he walked into the college’s mall site that day, pointed his black pump-action shotgun at a group of people near the front desk and pulled the trigger.
But because the gun’s safety was still on, MacInnis’ first few attempts to fire were unsuccessful, preventing a point-blank wounding of a victim as he started his rampage. The group of people at the front desk — including Schumann — scattered, while MacInnis worked on getting the gun to fire.
The video also shows MacInnis shooting Bousserghine, who was sitting in a chair listening to music and working on her English paper.
Much of Wednesday’s testimony focused on MacInnis’ mental health issues, and his parents gave emotional testimony about who MacInnis used to be before his first suicide attempt at age 15.
On the day of the shootings, MacInnis entered the mall site shortly before 2 p.m. He shot and injured both women before he was apprehended at the scene.
Schumann testified that she worked at the front desk and handled testing for students and day-to-day operations. She said she had previously left a job with the City of Roanoke Social Services because it was extremely stressful and dangerous at times. She said she began work at New River Community College because she said she wanted “a better, safer environment.”
Schumann testified that on the morning of April 12, 2013, while getting ready for work, she saw reports of a shooter on a campus in Greensboro, North Carolina. She said she stopped, prayed for the people on that campus and thought about how scary it would be.
“Then I kissed my parents on the cheek and left,” Schumann said.
Schumann said her computer at work had been acting up, and while it was being fixed, she moved to a co-worker’s computer, which was closer to the front entrance. She had her back to the door and was talking to her boss and an IT employee when she saw her boss’ face “go white,” she said.
She said she turned around and saw a man with a gun pointed right at her. The security camera footage played in court showed that Schumann immediately ducked under her desk as others ran.
The video showed that while MacInnis worked on getting his gun to shoot, Schumann ran from under the desk. MacInnis fired after her.
Schumann said she made it to a small room nearby but soon realized there was blood everywhere. MacInnis had shot through the door of the room, hitting her hand and causing splinters to cut into her face and chest.
The video then showed MacInnis walking into the lobby and shooting Bousserghine.
Bousserghine said she felt a sharp pain in her back and lay still so that the shooter would think she was dead. MacInnis left the lobby area and walked down the side hallways, and after he had been gone for some time, Bousserghine got up and ran.
She said she made it to the food court of the mall, where she was helped by employees.
In the surveillance videos from April 12, MacInnis walked calmly through the hallways, occasionally looking into classrooms. Before he made it to one hallway, several students fled one of the rooms. Minutes later, MacInnis looked into that classroom but kept walking when he realized it was empty.
Both Schumann and Bousserghine testified that they no longer feel safe in public. Schumann spent four days in the hospital, has had four surgeries and has only about 30 percent use of her hand, she said.
She said she’s left movie theaters and even a cart full of groceries at the grocery store after hearing loud noises.
“I thought that April 12 was the worst day of my life, and that was until all these other horrible days,” Schumann said, explaining the pain of physical therapy and all the ways in which the shooting has affected her emotionally.
“These [days] aren’t going away anytime soon,” she said. “I pay the consequences for his actions every single day, and there are a lot of other people that do, too.”
Bousserghine spent five days in the hospital and has had three surgeries. For several months, she had to wear a wound vac — a machine that sucked the liquid out of her wound. She still experiences pain and cannot sit in the same position for very long, she said.
Christian Miles, who was a student at the community college last April, also testified that he experiences anxiety. His professor locked their classroom door during the shootings, but MacInnis shot through the glass of the door, he said.
He said he tried to return to school but had a panic attack and has not been able to go back.
Jimmy Turk, MacInnis’ lawyer, called several of MacInnis’ family members, who testified about MacInnis’ history of mental health issues.
Brian MacInnis, Neil MacInnis’ father, testified that his son has attempted suicide three times.
The family put him in a rehabilitation center after the attempts and provided him with additional mental health treatment, Brian MacInnis said.
“We thought the worst thing that would happen is that he would succeed in suicide,” Brian MacInnis said, explaining that the family had no indication that Neil MacInnis thought about hurting others.
“The Neil that was at the mall that day is not the Neil we raised or knew,” Brian MacInnis said. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Brian MacInnis said his son had been on medication but a psychologist took him off the medicine in January 2013 because he had been doing so well.
“We feel let down by the mental health profession,” Brian MacInnis said. “If I had known it, I would have stopped him. I would’ve had him committed or arrested.”
Neil MacInnis showed no emotion during his father’s testimony, as he did for the majority of the hearing. He smiled briefly when his mother testified about how much his cat loved him, and he nodded when she told him that she hopes he gets help.
MacInnis’ family members cried during their testimony and apologized to the victims, telling them that they understand how it must sound absurd to them that MacInnis was once a good, caring kid with a sense of humor.
At MacInnis’ plea hearing in April, Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt played four homemade videos that were later discovered on MacInnis’ laptop and pointed to existing mental health issues.
In those videos, which were recorded on April 10, 2013, MacInnis mostly talked about his plans to commit the shootings and spent a lot of time discussing how he thought it was too easy for individuals to buy firearms. He expressed a need for better security in schools.
“I’m not saying we need cops in schools, but we need to have something where people can’t hurt people,” he said. “It’s just real easy to get guns.”
Pettitt has said that MacInnis had considered carrying out a similar attack at Christiansburg High School while he was a student there but couldn’t because he was too young to purchase a gun.
MacInnis’ uncle, Stewart MacInnis, who has acted as a spokesman for the family, testified Wednesday that the videos played at the plea hearing showed how distorted Neil MacInnis’ logic, judgment and values were.
He talked about how mentally ill people shouldn’t buy guns so he decided to buy a gun, Stewart MacInnis said. He talked about how schools should be protected so he decided to attack a school, he added.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Stewart MacInnis said. “He’s made bad choices, your honor, but … Neil MacInnis did not choose mental illness. Mental illness chose him.”
Court-approved psychologist Rebecca Loehrer did a mental evaluation on MacInnis and found that he was competent to stand trial. But she also testified Wednesday that MacInnis is very mentally ill.
She said he is a danger to both himself and others.
Pettitt said in her closing statement that MacInnis lied to his doctors and said he didn’t have homicidal thoughts. But he had thought about shooting people for years, she said.
She said she believes the reason he lied was to move his plan forward and that he has an “I’m smarter than you are kind of attitude.”
“Some crimes are so heinous that you don’t get another chance,” she said.
Pettitt said that while incarcerated, MacInnis has made comments about shooting imaginary people, wanting to lie under his victims’ bodies and feel their blood on him and how he felt like a god during the shootings.
Pettitt requested that Judge Marcus Long sentence MacInnis to the maximum punishment — two life sentences plus eight years on the firearm charges.
Before Long announced the sentence, MacInnis, while reading the prepared statement, apologized for what he did and said that he sometimes acts without thinking.
MacInnis said he realizes he has a mental health problem and will accept any and all treatment provided for him. He said he has never stopped thinking about the victims and prays for them.
Long, who said he has been struggling with the case, was critical of the state’s mental health system, saying the MacInnis case is a clear example of its inadequacies.
Long said the system, which has been prone to cutbacks, needs improvements to treat people as ill as MacInnis.
But, Long said, on the day of the shootings, MacInnis was “evil personified” and his actions were “cold and calculated.”
Long sentenced MacInnis to a total of 68 years in prison, suspended after he serves 38. MacInnis will be placed on probation indefinitely upon his release and must pay more than $140,000 in restitution to Schumann and more than $5,200 to Bousserghine.
“This is the only thing I have to do,” Long said, explaining that since MacInnis was found competent for trial, the only option was incarceration. “I hope at some point in the Department of Corrections you can get some help. Your acts demanded a long sentence.”
After the hearing, Schumann’s father, Gerry Sharpe, said he was very disappointed with the sentence.
Sharpe said Long mentioned how both women received life sentences with their physical and emotional injuries so he thought the judge would sentence MacInnis to the same.
Carola Bousserghine, Kristina Bousserghine’s mother, said her family was excited to make a life in the United States. But now, they just want to leave. They have put their house up for sale, she said.
said the United States has a “serious problem with guns,” and even though students have been shot at schools repeatedly, “nothing is changing.”
“Guns are more important to people than the lives of our children,” she said.