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Rage: A Look At A Teen Killer

Parents, teachers and students are still piecing together what happened Monday in a Santee, Calif., high school, when 15-year-old Andy Williams allegedly opened fire in the most devasting school shooting since Littleton, Colo.

What drives teen-agers to kill? But other cases can shed light.

In 1997, when Evan Ramsey was 16, he walked into his school in Bethel, Alaska, pulled out a .12 gauge shotgun and murdered two people. 60 Minutes II Correspondent Carol Marin spoke to Evan in an Alaska prison to hear his explanation of what drives a teen-ager to kill.

Bethel is an isolated town of 5,000 on the Alaska tundra. On Feb. 19, 1997, life there changed forever.

Reyne Athanas, a Bethel High art teacher, was in the teacher's lounge when she heard a popping sound. She thought it was firecrackers. So she walked down the hall, where she was met by a stream of kids screaming, "He's got a gun; he's got a gun."

Reyne Athanas: mad at parents for not taking care of their children
The boy with the gun was Evan Ramsey. He had already shot his first victim, popular student and athlete Josh Palacios, 15. Athanas went to where Josh lay dying. When she looked up, Evan was pointing his .12 gauge shotgun directly at her.

She told him to put the gun down. He looked very angry, out of control, she recalls.

Evan didn't shoot Athanas and left. But minutes later, he returned and killed the principal, Ron Edwards.

Then Evan put the gun under his chin. But he never fired the final shot. After a short standoff with police, he surrendered and was convicted of murder and assault.

But the question remains: Why did Evan decide to take a shotgun to school? "My main objective of going into the high school was to check out," he says. "To commit suicide."

Up to that point, Evan had had a difficult life. When he was 7, his father went to prison. His mother became an alcoholic, and Evan and his brothers were shipped off to a series of foster homes. In one of those homes, he suffered sexual abuse and humiliation, according to court testimony.

Psychiatrist Dr. John Smith, who examined Evan a few months after the murders, found that Evan had attempted suicide at age 10. According to Dr. Smith, Evan was depressed from a young age. By the time Evan was using marijuana, getting poor grades and struggling to control an explosive temper.

And he spent hours every day playing Doom, the violent video game said to be a source of fascination for Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the two suspects in the Littleton, Colo., shooting - as well as for Michael Carneal, who opened fire in Paducah, y. Andy Williams, the alleged gunman in the shootings at Santana High School, appears to have been an avid player of violent video games as well.

Evan was an outsider, someone who didn't fit in with the athletes and popular kids at school. But he did have friends, like Tiffany Gwinn, who says he was depressed.

In Santee, California, classmates of Andy Williams say he felt rejected by other students. They say he was often the object of ridicule Evan says that no one - not teachers, friends nor other students - understood the rejection he felt.

But Renee Erb, who prosecuted Evan, says that the blame lies squarely on his shoulders and that he is a bad person. "There are some people in this world that are no good. Nobody really knows where they come from or why. But they've always been with us and it may be that they always are," she says.

She points out that he planned the crime ahead of time.

But Evan did not plan his violence alone. He had the help and encouragement of two 14-year-old boys; one helped him learn to load and fire a .12 gauge shotgun and told him that fame and fortune would follow.

The parallel to Santee, California, is striking. Andy Williams apparently shared his plan with more than 20 other students, and not one of them came forward to warn authorities. In Bethel, Ala., the day of the shooting, a group of students gathered in the second-floor library overlooking the lobby because they were told by Evan and his accomplices that something big was going to happen. By the time Evan, who had been up all night, arrived at school, there was no way for him to back out, Dr. Smith says.

Erb thinks Evan wasn't trapped, but was driven by his own desire for fame.

There is another theory for why Evan did what he did.

Evan calls it a family curse. His father, Don Ramsey, became known as the Rambo of Alaska. In 1986, enraged when the Anchorage Times refused to publish his political letter, Don Ramsey showed up at the newspaper's office. He wanted to get his article published.

"I was armed and ready to go to war," he says. "I had a AR 180-223 semi-auto, something like 180 rounds of ammo for it. A snub barrel .44 magnum and about 30 rounds for it."

Don Ramsey says he was ready to die, just as Evan was. And just as Evan did, he surrendered after a short standoff with police and went to prison. He accepts part of the responsibility for what his son did.

Don Ramsey was released from prison in February 1997. Two weeks later his son brought a shotgun to Bethel High.

"The tragedy of everyone in Bethel, particularly the young man and the principal who were killed and their families, is that Evan was not recognized as needing as much help as he did," Dr. Smith said.

At Evan's sentencing, the judge called Anthanas a hero who had tried to stop Evan three times during the incident. For her, that is little comfort.

"I'm mad at Evan for putting me through this, she says. "I'm mad at all those other boys and girls who didn't come forward and say anything."

Athanas estimates that there were 10 to 15 kids in the gallery. She thinks some knew there would be a gun involved and is deeply disturbed no one came forward, she says.

"I'm mad at parents for not taking care of their children so they ended up doing this," Athanas continues.

"I'm mad at teachers and society for not being aware of the problems and dealing with it young," she adds. "Kindergarten, first grade - that's when you need to do it. This tragedy didn't have to occur. Those other ones didn't have to occur."

Prosecutors have said there are no simple answers to yesterday's shooting; that it's complicated. They will charge Andy Williams as an adult, which means he could spend the rest of his life in prison. Evan Ramsey was sentenced to 200 years in prison and will be eligible for parole when he's 75. In the end there was no lasting fame for Evan Ramsey, but it was something that was still on his mind.

In the end Evan realizes he failed in his quest of lasting fame, he says. "I'm dead to the world," he says. "If a few months, nobody will really remember me. There will be other people that will commit other offenses and I'll be considered yesterday's news."

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