Indiana Mom Charged With Six Felonies For Allowing Son to Attempt School Massacre, Kill Himself

A handgun is pictured on April 17, 2007. An Indiana mom was recently charged with allowing her 14-year-old son to access firearms stored in her home in order to attempt a school shooting. TIM SLOAN/Getty

An arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday for Mary York, the Wayne County, Indiana, parent whose son, then-14-year-old Brandon Clegg, stormed his middle school in December 2018 with a pistol and shotgun in an effort to slaughter classmates before turning the weapons on himself.

York, 43, was charged with six felonies relating to child endangerment, as Clegg was often left unsupervised overnight while an ineffective gun locker was stowed in the basement containing several firearms. Clegg had struggled with mental health issues for several years before deciding to attempt a mass shooting at Dennis Middle School in Richmond, where he killed himself once confronted by police, according to a law enforcement affidavit.

The night before the planned massacre, Clegg filmed himself on a cell phone, stating his desire to murder classmates at his school over alleged instances of bullying. He is seen prying open the gun cabinet, which only took a "brief amount of time," and retrieving a .45 caliber pistol and bolt action rifle. Clegg would use these weapons to force his mother's then-partner, Kelly Connor, at gunpoint, to drive him to the school the following day to perpetrate the attempted massacre.

Law enforcement officials were unable to locate any contemporaneous reports of bullying, though they did note that Clegg had confessed to mental health professionals that he heard voices that told him to commit murder and take his own life.

The felony charges against York relate in part to Connor's gun-storage locker located in her basement. It was easily breached by Clegg, nearly allowing the massacre to occur. The charges also implicate York in failing to provide mental health treatment to Clegg commensurate with the challenges of his condition.

York told law enforcement officials that she was unaware of the severity of her son's mental health crisis, including his avowed homicidal and suicidal intentions.

But a law enforcement affidavit reports that York corresponded multiple times with an inpatient mental health treatment center about her son's condition. Clegg was removed from the center due to health insurance issues. York is also said to have been present at an intake meeting where Clegg expressed suicidal and homicidal thoughts. After his release, which was against medical advice, York eventually pulled Clegg off of the medication the center had prescribed because it made him "feel weird."

Newsweek could not reach York for comment. Her bail was set at $7,500 when the warrant for her arrest was issued.

Research has shown that childhood gun violence is often realized with the aid of a family member's weapon. The Washington Post analyzed over 100 school shootings committed by young people and found that firearms in most of the cases originated from an immediate family member.

A Harvard study of four states found that firearm suicides from 2001 to 2002 involved a gun that belonged to a family member in 82 percent of cases. In a majority of the cases where this detail was reported by the coroner, the weapon used by the child had been stored unlocked.

Firearm-related deaths are among the top-three leading causes of death for children in the United States, a little over half of which can be attributed to homicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, these numbers may slightly overemphasize the influence of homicide as suicide was not a notable metric for children under 10.

Yet the rates of children victimized by accidental gun deaths and gun homicides have been on the decline in recent years. Despite the narrative often depicting curious children accidentally killing themselves with a parent's firearm, unintentional firearm deaths among children are exceedingly rare. Just 82 children were accidentally killed at the hands of a firearm from 2012 to 2014, the CDC found.

Nevertheless, childhood firearm mortality is a distinctly American problem. The CDC reported, citing an analysis of multiple international studies, that 91 percent of childhood firearm deaths in high-income countries occur in the United States. African-American children are the most frequent victims of child firearm deaths, largely due to homicide.

But better safe-storage practices could make significant headway in reducing firearm mortality in children. Harvard reported, citing research in the journal Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, that "youths living in homes in which all firearms are stored unloaded and locked are at lower risk for suicide than those living in homes in which firearms are stored less securely."

A federal law proposed by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee would implement safe storage requirements for residential gun owners. Jackson Lee's bill would penalize gun owners who stow weapons at home such that children can improperly access them. Her bill would offer protections to gun owners who take appropriate precautions to secure their firearms. It is currently under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives.

At least 11 states have laws regulating the safe storage of firearms, the gun control group Giffords says. Although only one state, Massachusetts, requires guns to be secured by lock in nearly all cases.