DENVER — An East High School dean who was shot by a 17-year-old student in March is sharing his story — including a "red flag" that preceded the incident — for the first time.
Deans Wayne Mason, who was initially identified as Jerald Mason, and Eric Sinclair were shot by Austin Lyle, 17, who was under a school safety agreement where he had to be patted down and searched in a front office before school each day due to past behavior involving weapons.
Mason said on Monday neither he nor Sinclair was responsible for the daily pat-downs.
“We should have had armed safety patrol there every morning that Austin came into the school because we knew his history,” said Mason, who retired as a probation officer before becoming the high school's restorative practice coordinator.
He says the morning of March 22, the 17-year-old asked for the assistant principal at the front desk.
“I called the AP on the radio. The AP didn't answer,” said Mason.
Sinclair took Lyle to a room to wait, according to Mason. He told media personnel on Monday he could hear Sinclair repeatedly call for the assistant principal on the radio to no answer. Then, according to Mason, Sinclair called for a safety officer.
“The safety officers didn't answer. Shortly after that, Eric was yelling in the radio, 'Wayne! Wayne! Help me! Help me!” said Mason.
Mason rushed to the room to help.
“Eric and Austin were wrestling. I grabbed Austin and Eric said, 'Gun! Gun!' Austin fired off some shots — I think two or three shots. And then I grabbed Austin's arm. And when I had his arm, and I saw Eric go down, I had his arm. Austin turn his wrist toward me, and he fired two shots. And he hit me," Mason said. "Austin broke away from me. And he stood there staring at Eric and [me] still pointing the gun at us. And then he ran out of the room."
Mason was shot in the chest and is still recovering. Sinclair was also injured. Lyle died by suicide, and his body was found hours after the shooting in Park County.
Mason said there were red flags before the incident. According to the dean, another student saw Lyle with a firearm in class weeks before the shooting and reported it.
“They brought Austin down to search him. Austin ran out of the school. That is the biggest red flag there. And then he was allowed back into the school,” Mason said.
Mason said the school was so short-staffed that the deans worked the front and back door security. He said his colleagues were not trained to perform pat-downs.
“Some of the pat-downs that I have seen at East High School are just casual. And so, that's not the proper way to do a pat-down,” he said.
Following the shooting, Denver Public Schools brought back school resource officers (SROs) to some of its campuses for the remainder of the school year. Superintendent Alex Marrero was tasked with developing a safety plan. The first draft, which was released May 1, provided an initial proposal for school resource officers and weapon detection technology.
DPS will gather feedback on the plan through May 21, a second draft will be released on May 26, and feedback will be gathered through June 4. The plan will be finalized on June 23 and the DPS Board of Education will review it on June 30.
Mason is out for the rest of the school year and said is not sure if he will return to East High School.
“We have to be better. Our administration has to be better,” said Mason.