Student charged with attempted murder in S. Dakota shooting

Author: the associated press
Published: Updated:

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – A teenage student was charged Thursday with attempted murder in the shooting of a South Dakota high school principal who was lightly wounded in the arm.

Lincoln County State’s Attorney Tom Wollman said Mason Buhl, 16, is charged as an adult on one count each of attempted murder and the commission of a felony while armed with a firearm. Buhl is accused of confronting Harrisburg High School Principal Kevin Lein with a handgun in his office Wednesday morning and firing a single shot that left the principal with a flesh wound.

Buhl pleaded not guilty in a brief court appearance Thursday afternoon in Canton, speaking little except to answer questions from the judge. The charges carry maximum penalties of 25 years in prison. Wollman said state law requires him to charge a 16-year-old as an adult when the felonies are class 2 or above.

Judge Bradley Zell appointed an attorney for Buhl and set no bond in the case. A preliminary hearing was set for Oct. 13.

Buhl, a junior, was tackled after the shooting by Assistant Principal Ryan Rollinger, and Rollinger and the school’s activities director held him down until sheriff’s deputies arrived. No one else was hurt, and students were sent home after the incident. Lein was discharged from the hospital Wednesday afternoon after a short stay.

Buhl’s father told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he doesn’t know what led his son to the shooting. He said his ex-wife, with whom his son lives, called to tell him that their son had been arrested following the shooting. He said his son’s been quiet over the past year.

“Something’s just going on inside of him and he’s just mad at everybody, I think,” Rodney Buhl said. “I don’t know what would’ve made him do something like this.”

He didn’t say where his son got the handgun, but said that he and his son would regularly target shoot outside and that his son had taken gun safety courses. Wollman would not say where the student got the gun.

The school has about 635 students from Harrisburg and other communities. Harrisburg, a town of about 5,000 residents, sits 10 miles south of Sioux Falls.

Classes resumed Thursday, and Lein and Rollinger returned to the job “not on my accord but on their accord,” said superintendent Jim Holbeck.

The two administrators called a school assembly to express how grateful they were to be able to stand in front of the students again.

“They wanted to be there,” Holbeck said. “They wanted to make sure that the kids saw they were safe.”

Lincoln County Sheriff Dennis Johnson praised school administrators and law enforcement officers for preventing further tragedy. Asked what can be done to keep guns out of schools, Johnson said militarizing the hallways with metal detectors with armed guards is not the answer.

“We can’t have that. That’s not our society,” Johnson said. “That’s certainly not our state. That’s certainly not Harrisburg.”

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