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Supreme Court denies appeal of teen who brought guns to Gillette Middle School

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School Student Guns

This Nov. 13, 2018 file photo shows parents waiting outside during a lockdown at Sage Valley Junior High School in Gillette after a student brought guns and bullets to school in a thwarted school-shooting attempt. The student, Dale Warner, eventually pleaded guilty and is now serving a lengthy prison sentence. 

The Wyoming Supreme Court on Monday rejected the appeal of a teenager serving a lengthy prison sentence for bringing guns to school as part of a plan to shoot classmates and educators.

Attorneys for Dale Warner had argued that a lower court judge put undue weight on a single factor — the seriousness of the boy’s offenses — when he denied Warner’s request to have his case handled in juvenile court.

The Supreme Court, however, concluded the judge did not abuse his discretion. That judge, the court noted, considered the seven required factors when deciding whether to move a case to juvenile court and concluded five weighed against transferring the boy’s case out of the adult system.

“The court set forth its factual findings regarding each factor and applied appropriate legal considerations to those findings,” the ruling states. “While the district court afforded weight to the seriousness of Mr. Warner’s alleged offenses, it did not place undue weight on that factor.”

Warner, who did not follow through with the shooting, is currently serving a prison sentence of 11 to 20 years. He’s housed at the Sussex 2 State Penitentiary in Waverly, Virginia, his father said in an email to the Star-Tribune.

Warner experienced a difficult upbringing. He was removed from his biological parents three days after his birth and bounced around foster care, with more than 20 different placements, according to the ruling. He kept sporadic contact with his biological dad, who died on Nov. 9, 2018. Warner attempted suicide in the aftermath. He then consumed “copious amounts” of drugs and alcohol, according to the ruling.

Four days later, Warner developed a plan to kill nine specific people and as many others as he could to honor his biological father, the ruling states. He took two guns and some ammunition from his adoptive father’s truck and went to Sage Valley Junior High, where he was attending eighth grade.

Warner told a few students about his plan, and one of them informed the principal, who found Warner in class and peacefully removed one of the guns from him. The other was confiscated in the boy’s locker.

Warner was charged as an adult and faced nine counts of attempted first-degree murder — one for each of the possible victims that he identified to authorities. His attorney sought to move the case to juvenile court, but was denied following a two-day hearing on the matter.

In Wyoming, judges are supposed to consider seven factors when deciding whether to move a case from adult to juvenile court. These include things such as the seriousness of the alleged offense, whether the offense was against people or property and the juvenile’s history.

In Warner’s case, the judge decided five factors weighed against the transfer, one was neutral and one was slightly in favor of moving the case to juvenile court.

After that determination was made, Warner pleaded guilty last year to possessing a firearm with unlawful intent and assault. His attorneys sought a sentence of eight to 15 years, but the court sided with prosecutors, who wanted a longer term behind bars.

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Editor

Joshua Wolfson joined the Star-Tribune in 2007, covering crime and health before taking over the arts section in 2013. He also served as managing editor before being named editor in June 2017. He lives in Casper with his wife and their two kids.

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