By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Under normal circumstances, Lucas Gallagher doesn't attract a lot of attention. He's a quiet kid, a 16-year-old who walks with his head down and keeps his chin-length blond hair tucked behind his ears. He's taking speech class in summer school so he won't have to talk in front of a whole roomful of kids.
And under normal circumstances, Lucas doesn't seem dangerous, either. The biggest crime on his high school disciplinary record is not dressing out for gym. He has never been in a fight. Fighting would involve talking or yelling and probably sweating; Lucas doesn't like any of that. He shoos cockroaches out of the house instead of killing them. He buys plaid grandpa pants at Goodwill, watches The Brady Bunch and listens to Peter, Paul and Mary. He and his girlfriend make clothes for his Chihuahua, Molly.
Lucas like a lot of teenagers isn't exactly a bundle of cheer. But before his arrest, he was on an upswing. His therapist was weaning him off antidepressants, he had found a girlfriend his mom liked, and he was able to sleep. He painted a picture, "Ode to the Unity of Man," that showed people holding hands forming a peace sign. Everyone was smiling.
Lucas's trouble began in Brazosport High School's computer room. On a page in a stack of printer paper, someone had written, "Death will come not swiftly, but very slow. You will die soon. Everyone will die soon, a fiery, brutal death." The note was signed "Death Bird."
In Colorado it had been the outcasts not the popular kids who fired the guns and made the bombs. It was the kind of kids who watched Saved By the Bell and didn't see themselves.
And Brazosport High, like every high school, has a group of kids who don't seem to fit in. At Brazosport, the preps throw Coke cans and apples at the outcasts; they're called "the freaks" or the "Korn Club"(most of them listen to the band Korn).
Many of Brazosport's outcasts are artists or intellectual types: They paint, write poetry, act or mess around with computers. Besides Lucas, there's Jennifer Williams, a member of the National Honor Society who plays the bassoon; Jeremy Hill, who rebuilds TVs, wants to be a computer animator and plays Uno with his mom; and John Lyle, a former Little League all-star who surfs and writes poems.
The group, if you can call it that, is loose-knit. Most of the 20 or so group members don't know each other's last names, much less their phone numbers. All they have in common is that they're lonely and wear superbaggy jeans with funky retro shirts.
And that they sit together at lunch. It's not that they all feel close to one another; it's more that none of them belongs to the high school's other groups: not with the preppies, not with the roughnecks or the skaters. They sit outside on the two brick-red benches farthest from the cafeteria.
After Littleton, Principal Boone viewed the members of the Korn Club as a potential security threat and started sitting with them at lunch time. Scrawled on the table were pentagons, anarchy symbols and inverted crosses. Someone had written "pipe bombs," "shotguns" and "666." Boone made friendly conversation, the kids say. They wanted him to go away.
On Tuesday, April 27 one week to the day after Littleton, four days after Death Bird's note had been found Lucas, the shy painter, was sitting at the table with a bunch of his friends, waiting for the bell to ring. One kid, Tommy Moore, had worn a trench coat to school. He'd worn it nearly every day and didn't see fit to stop after Littleton. Lucas thought it was stupid. He knew Tommy was going to get in trouble.
Boone hollered at Tommy to come talk to him.
"Hide your bombs," a few kids said. They were joking.
Boone didn't laugh. Fed up, he took Lucas and his friends to the library and lectured them about Littleton. Lucas rarely says much, and he'd never said anything about Littleton, so he stopped paying attention; he didn't think what Boone was saying applied to him. He says he heard Boone yelling and screaming and cursing, but he blocked it out. He sat there with his mind blank.
Boone confiscated Tommy's trench coat, and then the bell rang. Boone said he might be calling them in for individual conferences later in the day.
And sure enough, during Lucas's world history class, he was summoned to the principal's office. To get there, Lucas walked through "legacy lane," a kind of hallway-cum-trophy-room, a shrine to the kind of kid Lucas isn't, the kind of kid who makes a high school principal proud instead of nervous.
Boone was waiting for Lucas and handed him over to a Freeport City police officer who frisked and cuffed him.
Lucas watched as 13 of the kids he eats with walked down the hall and were also arrested. That wasn't all of the Korn Club just the ones who were at school that day. The guy next to Lucas asked what was going on and why it was happening. Everyone ignored him. Lucas kept his mouth shut and wished there weren't so many people in the hall watching. He didn't want to be watched.