Kenny Bartley school shooting trial gets underway Monday

Kenny Bartley
Kenny Bartley

JACKSBORO (WATE) – Trial began Monday morning for the man accused in the deadly 2005 shooting at Campbell County High School.

Kenny Bartley, 22, pleaded guilty to the shootings in a plea deal, but was granted a new trial in 2011.

Bartley is accused of walking into the Campbell County High School with a gun on November 8, 2005. He was then escorted to the office. Allegedly, that’s when administrators confronted him and Bartley fired the weapon.

Assistant Principal Ken Bruce was killed. Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce were wounded.

During opening statements Monday, the prosecution said Bartley was late to school on that date because he was retrieving a gun and pills. In the school’s office, Pierce asked to see what was in Bartley’s pocket.

“[Bartley] reaches into the big pocket of his cargo pants and pulls out his .22 Beretta. He proceeds to wave the gun at all three gentlemen, forcing me, Bruce, to the back of the room,” said prosecutor Lori Phillips-Jones.

Phillips-Jones said when asked if it was real, Bartley allegedly said he would show them, displayed the clip, and eventually began firing.

The district attorney said during the trial, witnesses will describe how calm Bartley was after the shooting, and about how he reflected before firing the gun, forming the intent to kill.

Defense Attorney Greg Isaacs then delivered his opening statements, saying Bartley developed psychological issues due to his parents’ separation. He said Bartley was taking drugs to deal with those issues, and planned to trade the gun for drugs.

Isaacs said classmates told the school resource officer about the gun, and although school officials knew they had a student with emotional problems and a gun, it took 30 minutes to get Seale to the office.

“This 14-year-old with a gun could have been easily contained. The situation could have been diffused if they would have followed the policies and procedures,” said Isaacs.

According to Isaacs, the school resource officer could not take the gun from Bartley because policy didn’t allow her to touch a male student.

Isaacs said school officials taunted Bartley, asking if the gun was real, saying it looked like a water pistol. Bartley then panicked and fired the gun.

Isaacs said Bartley acted out of panic and fear and school officials could have taken the gun anytime during the prior 30 minutes Bartley was in the school office.

Testimony then began in the trial. A classmate of Bartley’s took the stand, saying Bartley showed him the gun and pills in keyboarding class. The classmate says he and Bartley were able to hide behind computer screens and snort drugs in class.

School Resource Officer Susan Phillips said she was told to get Bartley out of the keyboarding class, but because of policy, she wasn't able to search him for the gun.
School Resource Officer Susan Phillips said she was told to get Bartley out of the keyboarding class, but because of policy, she wasn’t able to search him for the gun.

The state then showed security video from the day of the shooting to the jury, showing Bartley being taken to the school office. The defense pointed out that there was no security camera inside the office.

School Resource Officer Susan Phillips then took the stand. She said she was told to get Bartley out of the keyboarding class, but because of policy, she wasn’t able to search him for the gun.

To keep him calm, she said she told Bartley she was taking him to the office to check his attendance. She then conducted small talk with him until Principal Seale arrived 10 to 15 minutes later.

She said she then heard gunshots about five minutes after Seale arrived, becoming emotional during her testimony.

“Mr. Seale came to the door and said we needed to put the school on lock down and that we needed an ambulance,” she said.

During defense cross-examination, Phillips admitted she had no formal training to be an SRO. She said no one asked Bartley if he had a gun in front of her, but that Pierce and she knew he had the gun. She said Seale knew as well.

Phillips then testified she heard Bartley say, “What have I done?” after the shooting.

A substitute teacher who tried to help Bruce after the shooting says Bartley was crying after the shooting and said “Mr. Seale, would it make you feel better if I said I’m sorry?”

Trial broke for the day just after 4 p.m., but is set to resume on Tuesday.

A jury of six men and six women from Hamilton County was seated on Friday. Four alternates were chosen as well, two men and two women.

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