Jesse Randall Davidson, 53, formerly of 5219 Hwy 11, Rising Fawn, and formerly a teacher at Dalton High School, entered a guilty plea to criminal damage to property in the first degree, carrying a weapon within a school safety zone and disrupting the operation of a public school. He was sentenced to serve two years in prison followed by eight years on probation on the first two charges which are felonies, with 12 months to serve concurrent on the final charge which is a misdemeanor.
In an incident on Feb. 28, Davidson had a gun at school and fired it out the window.
Conditions of his probation include a $1,000 fine, 100 hours of community service work, a probation supervision fee, restitution totaling $16,133.97 and specific conditions that he (1) not possess any firearms, (2) waive his 4th amendment rights, (3) transfer supervision to another jurisdiction and remain outside the Conasauga Judicial Circuit (Whitfield and Murray Counties) while on probation, (4) not pursue or accept employment or volunteer work which involves the education or supervision of or close contact with persons under the age of 18, (5) not go upon or into any public or private school property or building and not attend any public or private school events or activities at which persons under the age of 18 are present, (6) obtain mental health counseling and treatment as directed by probation at his own expense and abide by the terms of any such treatment provider including the taking of prescribed medication as directed, (7) sign a waiver of confidentiality to allow any such treatment provider to share necessary information with his probation officer and/or the Court, and (8) have no contact, directly or indirectly, with any current student of Dalton High School including any who graduated as part of the class of 2018.
Superior Court Judge Cindy Morris accepted the guilty plea and negotiated plea agreement. Davidson was represented by local attorney Richard Murray.
District Attorney Bert Poston said, "Without authority or permission, Davidson on Feb. 28 carried a loaded Taurus .38 caliber revolver into Dalton High School before the start of classes. He taught his first period class and then had a planning period where no students were in the classroom. When his third period students began to arrive, they found the classroom door locked and notified school staff.
"Principal Steve Bartoo responded and found Davidson agitated and denying entry to the classroom. When Mr. Bartoo attempted to unlock the door and gain entry, Davidson warned him that he had a gun and then fired a single shot. Not knowing where the shot was aimed or if more were to follow, Mr. Bartoo retreated and put the school on immediate security lockdown. Once authorities were notified and first responders were in route, Mr. Bartoo ordered an evacuation of the school starting with the classrooms nearest to Davidson’s.
"The only physical injury resulting from the incident was a twisted ankle suffered by a student during the evacuation.
"Both Dalton and Whitfield County school buses were employed during the evacuation. The buses took students to the Dalton Convention Center.
"School Resources Officer Bart Chandler was off-campus at the time of the shooting but responded quickly to the scene followed by a significant law enforcement response including multiple local agencies and the Georgia State Patrol. SRO Chandler was able to convince Davidson to surrender without further incident or injury to anyone.
"The investigation which followed, led by Dalton Police Department Detective Chris Tucker, determined that Davidson’s goal that day was most likely to be killed by the police, an act sometimes described as “suicide by cop.” The law enforcement response was extremely professional and SRO Chandler’s familiarity with the school and with Davidson allowed him to de-escalate the situation so that Davidson could be taken into custody without the use of deadly force.
"Davidson cooperated with law enforcement and his attorney, Richard Murray, indicated from the very beginning that he would be entering a guilty plea to the charges and taking responsibility for his actions. Before that plea could occur however, a series of meetings were held at Dalton High School in which the district attorney, along with the District Attorney’s Office Director of Victim Services, Brenda Hoffmeyer, met with Mr. Bartoo and with representatives of faculty, staff, students and parents to establish communication protocols, discuss possible criminal charges, and ultimately to discuss a negotiated plea. All parties were in agreement about the final terms of the plea agreement and Mr. Bartoo spoke at sentencing in support of the agreement.
"The case posed entirely new challenges to the District Attorney’s Office and Victim/Witness Assistance Program because of the number of victims involved; there were aproximately 1,900 students plus parents, family, teachers, staff, etc. There was no way to meet with each victim individually but every effort was made to ensure that any person wishing to be heard or to have a voice in the process was provided that opportunity. Several individuals wrote letters and provided victim-impact statements to the court."
The District Attorney’s Office thanked the local law enforcement agencies, especially the Dalton Police Department, for their professional and able response to the situation and follow-up investigation. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance of the Dalton Public School system throughout the process.