‘Never healed properly’: Students share how Freeman High School shooting made them change future plans

SPOKANE, Wash. — For the third time this week, victims shared how the 2017 Freeman High School shooting affects them to this day.

A judge is listening to victim impact statements to determine Caleb Sharpe’s fate. He already pleaded guilty earlier this month to murder and attempted murder and could face life in prison. For those who lived through the trauma, no amount of time can heal the pain the shooting caused.

“I will never forget that day and every excruciating detail that went into it. It’s burned into me like a scar that never healed properly,” said one Freeman student.

A scar branded in their memories one student actually tattooed the date of the shooting, Sept. 13, 2017, on her forearm to never forget something she still struggles to comprehend.

“Sam’s dead. Dead — I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand death at that time,” she said while trying to hold back tears.

She, along with countless others, were just children at the time and were forced to face an experience no one will ever understand.

“September 13 took my life down a route I never wanted to take,” said the brother of one of the shooting victims.

He said he still struggles with anxiety and depression to this day. It forced him to leave college after just a year and a half. He also changed what he was studying. He wanted to go into education but couldn’t fathom being around something so devastating for his career.

As young adults, they’re trying to move on but are caught up in a past defined by death.

“I’m hesitant to talk to strangers about my life because the moment Freeman leaves my mouth, it’s all they see, it’s all they hear is the terror that you caused.”

Some students faced Sharpe face to face in the courtroom. If they couldn’t address him in person, victim advocates stepped in to read their statements. A support dog was also there for comfort, as well as family and friends from the tight-knit Freeman community.

Students are pleading with the judge to give Sharpe the maximum sentencing. They say they’re terrified if Sharpe’s ever released, another cold-blooded murder could happen again.

“I have nightmares that I’m in a grocery store, and I see you walking freely.”

Before, everyone was able to speak openly. That changed on Thursday when a judge asked someone from a crisis management organization out of Oregon to stop their testimony. They were providing context on trauma but were not present for the shooting and were not directly impacted as a victim. The judge said this person may be able to present at a later date, but during this stage of statements, it was not allowed.

These victim impact statements are set to continue next week.

MORE: Victims face Freeman High School shooter face-to-face

MORE: ‘I hope he rots in jail’: Victims confront killer in Freeman High School shooting

MORE: ‘Constant state of fear’: Freeman HS shooting victims share how their lives are forever traumatized