Ky. (September 13, 2002 11:17 a.m. EDT) - Almost five years
after gunning down three classmates gathered for a prayer
circle, Michael Carneal still can't explain one thing: Why?
"People want one simple answer - I can't give it," he told
The Courier-Journal of Louisville in an interview at the
Kentucky State Reformatory, where he is serving a life sentence.
Three girls were killed and five others hurt when the
then-14-year-old pulled a stolen .22-caliber pistol out of his
backpack on Dec. 1, 1997, and began firing at the lobby of Heath
High School, near Paducah, Ky.
Now 19, Carneal blamed himself for subsequent school shootings
around the country, especially the April 1999 attack at
Columbine High School that left 13 people dead. He said he felt
so guilty that he attempted suicide several times.
"I thought if I killed myself, I would make the world a better
place," he said in Thursday's Courier-Journal. Later, he said,
he realized "I can't change anything that happened, by dying or
anything else; I wish I could change things, but I can't."
Back then, Carneal said, he believed his parents didn't love
him, and that he was constantly taunted by other students,
including some who he said falsely claimed he was gay.
"I realize now that it was just what adolescents do - pick on
each other and joke around," he said. "But I still think I got a
little more of it than most kids."
One thing that did not influence him, he said, is video games or
The families of the slain girls filed a $33 million lawsuit
blaming entertainment companies for the shootings. Last month, a
federal appeals court panel unanimously affirmed the dismissal
of the case, saying the companies couldn't have known that
somebody would commit such a crime after viewing their products.
Carneal said the video games he played were no more violent than
the articles on the front page of a newspaper; he said he only
watched a portion of the movie "The Basketball Diaries," in
which a drug addict dreams of shooting students who had laughed
at him when he was paddled by a teacher.
"It was just another movie," he said. "It really didn't stick
Judy James, Jessica's mother, told the newspaper "it's a little
too late for apologies."
James, whose daughter was 17, said that despite Carneal's age,
"he was well aware of what he was doing."
Carneal, who is eligible for parole in 2022, said group therapy
and medication have controlled the delusions and paranoia he
said he once suffered.
"People like to judge me by the one incident," he said. "I
really believe more in talking things out."