Original article no longer available
The Courier and Press
By Kate Braser
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The parents and defense attorney for a 16-year-old boy facing charges for allegedly bringing a gun to Reitz High School on March 6 say the youth never intended to hurt anyone and that he was never on school property with the gun.
The incident prompted a lockdown of West Side schools and a police response from local, state and federal agencies.
Jonathan Reis, 16, was suicidal that day and admitted it to his parents, friends, police and doctors. But he has denied repeatedly he had any intent to harm others and that he even was on school property with a gun.
The Courier & Press does not normally identify minors accused of crimes, but because Reis is charged with felonies, his name is in the public record.
According to a delinquency petition filed in Vanderburgh Juvenile Court this week, Reis is charged with possession of a firearm on school property and trespass, both class D felonies.
On Wednesday afternoon, David Reis, Jonathan’s father, discussed the case, which has made public his family’s private grief.
“If I hadn’t gotten there that day and his friends and principal and school staff hadn’t done what they did, my son would be dead,” Reis said. “They are the reason that he is still living, because of their concern.”
According to David Reis, his son began showing symptoms of depression in November. His parents sent him to see a psychologist, and he was prescribed antidepressants.
“We were doing everything in our power to get him better,” David Reis said.
But during the first week of March, Reis said he and his wife Jennifer thought their son seemed more distraught, despite a psychologist’s assurance he was fine. David Reis said his son’s medical prescription dose was increased.
The morning of March 6, Jonathan reportedly drove his mother to work, then proceeded to Reitz High School, where he planned to pick up a friend and drive to the School for Academic and Career Development, formerly known as Stanley Hall.
While there from 7:10 to 7:25 p.m., David Reis said, his son spoke with another close friend in the parking lot. He later remembered the friend he planned to pick up was not attending school that day because he’d had minor surgery.
David Reis said his son left the school to get gas. While at the gas station, he received two text messages from two different girls that upset him.
“So he came home because he was upset,” David Reis said. Surprised to see his son back at home, David Reis asked Jonathan what he was doing, and he reported that he had come to get a book he’d forgotten.
His father didn’t know that Jonathan grabbed a shotgun instead.
It wasn’t long before Jennifer Reis received a text message from one of her son’s friends, expressing concern Jonathan was going to hurt himself. For the rest of the morning, Jennifer and three of Jonathan’s friends continued sending him text messages, trying to learn his location and hoping to keep him occupied.
All the while, David Reis said, his son was “basically telling them goodbye.”
The Reis’ concern rose to panic when they realized David’s shotgun was missing. David called his cell phone provider to ask if they would trace his son’s phone signals to help find him. The company referred the parents to 911, where dispatchers advised they could not trace him but asked him to fill out a missing persons report.
Jonathan would later tell police he spent much of that morning sitting inside his pickup truck with the shotgun, near railroad tracks on King Road, leaving just once to go to Lowe’s to purchase tools so he could put a sticker he liked on the window of the truck. Police later found the receipt inside the truck.
David Reis said he and his wife had no idea of the Reitz lockdown until hours later, when police began questioning their son.
David Reis now blames himself, saying he told an officer on the phone that he believed Jonathan might be headed to Reitz to pick up a friend. David and Jennifer actually sat inside the Reitz parking lot for a period of time, hoping to spot their son because he’d told them he was on his way there to give a friend a ride.
Jonathan’s best friend ultimately found him at the location on King Road and immediately called David and Jennifer who raced to the scene.
“I walked up to his truck, he unlocked it, and I reached over and took the gun from where it was sitting next to him,” David Reis said. “I asked him did he know what he was doing, and all he really said was ‘Yeah, but I don’t care anymore,’ and that was about it. He was just quiet then.”
What happened from there is a matter of dispute.
Police say Reis admitted to being at Reitz, but Jonathan has told his parents he only meant he’d been there early that morning, before he’d retrieved the gun.
Police have said a witness on the scene that day told them that she saw a young man fitting Reis’ description approaching the school cafeteria doors with a gun around 11:20 a.m.