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Santana High School Victims Testify

Aired August 15, 2002 - 14:13   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: This is -- at this particular moment, the emotional pinnacle of two cases. One, as you just heard, outside of Atlanta, another taking place in San Diego County, California and a school shooting -- a sentencing of a 16-year-old. This is one of the victims who was wounded, addressing the court.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and knowing how close one of the bullets came to my head, and lying on ground without any cover, hearing the shots being fired and not knowing if Andy was going to come and finish me off has had great impact on me. The day itself has impacted my family emotionally and financially. I no longer feel as I once did before.

Today, I ask the court, put Andy away for good, but it will never be enough. Fifty years from now, my bullet won't be deterring (ph). Randy and Bryan will not come back to their families, and March 5 will never have happened -- but I know none of that will ever happen, no matter how many years go by. He should never be let out of prison. If I asked one question to Andy, and it would be, was it worth it all? Was whatever it was bothering you -- excuse me -- was whatever bothering you worth all this trouble.

As for me -- excuse me -- as for me, I will move on, and close this chapter of my life. I will start a new one. I will go on to be a better person, get married, have kids, and I will be known as a Santana survivor, not a victim. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

SAVIDGE: This is sentencing phase of Charles "Andy" Williams. He is the 16-year-old who, last year, entered into a high school Santa Ana (ph) High School in San Diego County, California and began shooting with a .22 caliber pistol. Two students were killed and 13 others were wounded. He eventually pleaded guilty to murder, and now this is the opportunity for victims and families at the sentencing to speak.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... on March 5 last year I was shot by the defendant, Andy Williams. Andy's acts that day were selfish, and he was out to shoot anyone who dared to be in his path. Unfortunately, I was in his path that day. He showed us no mercy, as he shot us, as we ran for our lives. I had never met him before that day, but now his face will be etched into my memory for the rest of my life. He didn't care about the people he was shooting. He destroyed my life and the lives of my family and friends. I feared for my life that day as I ran from him, as he gunned down my friends and classmates. I don't fear him anymore. Actually, I don't feel anything for him anymore. I just want justice to be paid, if there is such a thing as total justice for what he did. Because no matter the punishment he is given, that will never bring back Randy and Bryan, but he does deserve the harshest of punishments because he and only he could have stopped this from happening.

When he brought the gun to school that morning, he was out to kill anyone who was foolish enough to cross his path on their way to class. Andy took away my sense of safety in the world. The fear of being a victim of someone else's cowardly act haunts me wherever I go. I'm never at rest. I am always on the edge, wondering what is going to happen next.

Before being shot, I would have never thought of the possibility of there being a shooting at school, and now that is all I can think about. But I have learned a lot about myself since March of last year. I have been able to live life better because no one knows when their life is going to be taken away from them. That is a sad state of mind, not knowing when your life will be taken from you.

Andy and hundreds of other teens make that fear a reality for us. All I ask is that you look at the horrors Andy committed, and not to be lenient because of his age, he was old enough to know what was right and what was wrong. And he knew what he was doing was terribly wrong. That didn't stop him from selfishly thinking of only himself, and taking out his aggression on us by trying to kill us. I never want to see him again in my life, and I am asking you to make that true for me.

Thank you your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to start by acknowledging that the tragic events of March 5, 2001 affected many thousands of people's lives, including the victims and their families, all of the students and staff of Santana, the administration, the Grossmont (ph) School District, the emergency response personnel, and each person's own family members, not to mention the Santee community as a whole. So my story reflects only a small part of the devastation that Andy Williams caused on that day.

At this time, I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of Bryan and Randy. I know you have experienced a tremendous loss in your lives. It is very difficult to convey the pain, both physical and emotional, and the grief and loss that all of us have felt over the course of the last 17 months. For me, it has also been an emotional roller coaster filled with anger, sadness, confusion, and frustration. I was working at the naval base when the shooting took place, so I was too far away to make it to the school. I didn't find out Melissa had been shot until around 10:30, over an hour later. Another student's mom saw Melissa hurt and by herself, so instead of looking for her own son she decided to stay with Melissa. For that, I will always be grateful. But it also fills me with guilt because I know Melissa must have been very scared, and I wasn't there when she needed me. It was this mom that called me on my cell phone, and while I was asking her where my daughter was, I heard her ask the paramedic if she could tell me over the phone. At that moment in time, my entire body went numb, because I thought lost my only child. It was the worst moment of my life.

I can only imagine the terror and chaos that was unfolding at Santana. I later learned that Melissa and her friend Carla had been standing just outside the boy's bathroom when Melissa saw Andy come around the stall and aim his gun at her. I am so thankful that she was quick enough to turn and run. Otherwise she probably would have been shot in the chest instead of the forearm, and I truly believe Andy would have continued to shoot her, till he killed her.

Following the shooting, Melissa underwent four surgeries over the course of a weekend. I can't tell you how difficult it was to see her in so much pain. The first few days, I was in a daze, just going through the motions, but early that Wednesday morning, I decided to go outside the hospital. While sitting on a bench, I picked up my first newspaper since the shooting. That was when reality finally set in. Reading the words on paper, seeing pictures of Randy and Brian, the names of the injured, my own daughter's name. It was more than I could take.

When Melissa was first released from the hospital, she didn't have any use of her arm from the elbow down. She went through several months physical therapy, and I vividly remember each night I had to stretch out her fingers, and even though Melissa would cry from the pain, I knew I had to continue. I was willing to do whatever it took for her to get back the use of her arm.

But I remember the anger I felt each night after leaving her room, knowing that Andy laughed as he intentionally did this to her. During the months that followed, my priorities shifted solely to Melissa and her recovery. Both my marriage and my job suffered tremendously. My husband, Doug, and I rarely discussed the shooting or the financial hardship we were now facing. Eventually our ability to communicate completely diminished. We had grew apart, which led to our separation, and filing of divorce.

Last week, Melissa completed her fifth and hopefully final surgery on her arm. We would not have made it through the last 17 months without the love and support of our family and friends, my coworkers, the Santana staff, Mrs. Vagasher (ph), and Dr. Melissa Brimer (ph) of the Santana recovery project.

Andy, time and time again, I have wondered why you decided to open fire on your classmates. What drove you to commit such a horrific act. Whatever the issues were that you had in your life at that time, you decided not to seek help from your family, friends, or even the counselors at school.

Instead, you made the conscious and deliberate decision, to take a weapon to school and injure and kill as many lives as you could. Throughout the course of that morning, you had ample time to really think about what you were about to do. You had time to realize that you were about to take human lives, and yet you didn't care. You, and only you, had a choice to stop it, but you chose not to.

I'm sure you were very much aware of the consequence of committing murder, and now it is time for you face your consequence.

Your honor, I would like to ask that when you consider Andy's sentence that you focus not on Andy's age, but the age of his victims. Brian and Randy were too young to die. They were only 14 and 17 years old. My daughter was only 15 years old. And most of the other victims were between 14 and 19. These young adults didn't have a choice that morning, but Andy did. He didn't have to become a murderer that day. He chose to be one.

I ask your honor that you show the same amount of mercy to Andy that he showed to his victims when he shot them. And that is none. Absolutely none.

Thank you, your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, ma'am.

SAVIDGE: The young man you are looking at there is Charles Andy Williams. He is convicted of opening fire at a high school in San Diego County, killing two students, wounding 13 others. The prosecution asking for the mandatory sentence, 425 years. You've been listening to testimony of those who were direct victims or family members and friends. We will go back to that sentencing hearing.




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