Year
1997
Month Day
December 12

14-year-old indicted for school shooting

Fourteen-year-old Michael Carneal is indicted as an adult on three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder for the shooting of his classmates at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky. On December 1, Carneal pulled out a pistol and fired 11 shots into a group of students in the school’s lobby.

By all accounts, Michael Carneal was a normal teenager from a solid family. He was neither exceptionally popular nor a social outcast. On December 1, when his older sister, Kelly, drove him to school, he reportedly claimed that the blanketed bundle on his lap was a prop for a school project; in fact, it contained two rifles and two shotguns. In addition, Carneal was carrying a .22-caliber pistol. The guns had all been stolen from a neighbor’s garage several weeks earlier.

When he arrived at school, Carneal walked toward a before-school prayer meeting that was just breaking up, inserted earplugs into his ears, loaded the .22, and then methodically shot eight students from a distance of 10 feet. Amid the barrage, fellow student Ben Strong convinced Carneal to drop his weapon and held him down until the school’s principal took the gunman away.

When asked what motivated his killing rampage, Carneal only cried and asked authorities to kill him. Later, he claimed that he was inspired by the movie The Basketball Diaries, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Families of the victims filed a $130 million lawsuit against 21 entertainment companies for their alleged role in the tragedy. Among those sued were the makers of the video games Quake and Doom. According to the litigants, Carneal had learned how to shoot accurately from playing these games.

Although charged as an adult, Carneal’s young age made him ineligible for the death penalty. He pleaded guilty but mentally ill, and he was sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole in 25 years.

Tags
terms:
Crime

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Kenya declares independence from Britain

On December 12, 1963, Kenya declares its independence from Britain. The East African nation is freed from its colonial oppressors, but its struggle for democracy is far from over. A decade before, in 1952, a rebellion known the Mau Mau Uprising had shaken the British colony. Not ...read more

Da Vinci notebook sells for over $5M

On December 12, 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer pays $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci. The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a ...read more

Stolen “Mona Lisa” recovered in Florence

Two years after it was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Mona Lisa is recovered inside Italian waiter Vincenzo Peruggia’s hotel room in Florence. Peruggia had previously worked at the Louvre and had participated in the heist with a group ...read more

“Tears Of A Clown” gives Smokey Robinson & The Miracles their first #1 pop hit

While Motown Records founder Berry Gordy surely deserves credit for establishing the creative philosophy and business strategy that turned his Detroit-based company into a hit-making machine in the 1960s, the inner workings of that machine during the company’s early years ...read more

USS Panay sunk by Japanese

During the battle for Nanking in the Sino-Japanese War, the U.S. gunboat Panay is attacked and sunk by Japanese warplanes in Chinese waters. The American vessel, neutral in the Chinese-Japanese conflict, was escorting U.S. evacuees and three Standard Oil barges away from Nanking, ...read more

First radio transmission sent across the Atlantic Ocean

Italian physicist and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi succeeds in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, disproving detractors who told him that the curvature of the earth would limit transmission to 200 miles or less. The message–simply the Morse-code ...read more

NFL rookie Gale Sayers ties single-game TD record

On December 12, 1965, the rookie running back Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears scores six touchdowns during a single game against the San Francisco 49ers at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, tying the National Football League (NFL) record for most touchdowns in a single game. Born in ...read more

JFK memorial album sets record for sales

On December 12, 1963, a vinyl long-playing record (“LP”) called John Fitzgerald Kennedy: A Memorial Album sets a record for album sales. A total of 4 million copies sold in the first six days of its release. The album, released on the Premier label, included recordings of some of ...read more

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” opens in theaters

On December 12, 1967, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, a groundbreaking movie about an interracial romantic relationship starring Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton, opens in theaters. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner followed the story of a young ...read more

Real estate mogul Leona Helmsley sentenced to prison

Leona Helmsley, nicknamed the “Queen of Mean” by the press, receives a four-year prison sentence, 750 hours of community service, and a $7.1 million tax fraud fine in New York. For many, Helmsley became the object of loathing and disgust when she quipped that “only the little ...read more

Pennsylvania ratifies the Constitution

On December 12, 1787, Pennsylvania becomes the second state to ratify the Constitution, by a vote of 46 to 23. Pennsylvania was the first large state to ratify, as well as the first state to endure a serious Anti-Federalist challenge to ratification. Pennsylvania was the most ...read more