Local News

Tuesday, Apr 30 2013 11:18 AM

Lawsuit filed against Taft Union High district in shooting

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Students, parents and teachers started the school day with prayer at Taft Union High School when in January 2013 school reopened for the first time since the shooting that left one student critically injured. Some students wore T-shirts in support of injured teen Bowe Cleveland during this prayer time.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The attorney for a student badly injured in a school shooting earlier this year is hoping to get answers — including whether the shooter had earlier compiled a hit list that school officials knew about — through a lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Taft Union High School District.

Attorney Daniel Rodriguez has said the district failed to take adequate precautions in connection with the dangers accused shooter Bryan Oliver presented. Rodriguez has said district officials knew, or reasonably should have known, that Oliver was dangerous, threatening and likely to commit a violent act.

The attorney is also seeking damages to cover injured student Bowe Cleveland’s medical fees, which have already climbed into the tens of thousands of dollars.

District Superintendent Blanca Cavazos could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Rodriguez said he raised three main points in the lawsuit.

First, he wants information on the alleged hit list. He said if such a list was found then the district should have contacted the parents of every student on the list and warned them of the danger.

District officials also should have contacted Oliver’s parents and learned if they kept guns at home, the attorney said.

Second, the district has a campus security officer who didn’t make it to work the day of the shooting because he travels from Frazier Park and was snowed in. Rodriguez said another officer should have been there.

“By all accounts he’s a pretty good guy and that type of stuff happens, but where was the backup plan?” Rodriguez said.

Third, there are gates to keep people from entering the school at spots other than the main entrance. It’s the campus security officer’s job to make sure all the gates are secured.

Rodriguez said it’s his understanding that Oliver entered the campus through an unlocked gate next to the science building where the shooting took place. He said there should have procedures in place to make sure all the gates were locked.

Cleveland suffered severe injuries in the Jan. 10 incident.

Authorities have said Oliver, 16 at the time, entered the school with a shotgun and fired upon Cleveland and student Jacob Nichols in a classroom. Cleveland suffered injuries to his abdomen and chest, and Nichols was uninjured.

Shotgun pellets grazed teacher Ryan Heber, who, along with campus supervisor Kim Fields, convinced Oliver to drop the gun, authorities said. A probable cause declaration filed in court said Oliver told authorities he targeted Cleveland and Nichols because they bullied him.

Oliver has pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a gun on a person.

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