DENVER (KDVR) — For the first time, the public heard from one of the deans shot at East High School in March. Wayne Mason shared his side of the story and his thoughts on the district’s safety plan.
Mason shared his truth on Monday during a Parents-Safety Advisory Group meeting about the day he and his colleague were shot by a student. But he’s also blowing the whistle on the district.
Mason said he is extremely bothered that the district allowed an untrained administrator to be alone with a high-risk student, who he said brought a gun to school weeks before the shooting, which should have been an obvious red flag.
“The moment Austin pulled that trigger, I forgave him,” Mason said. “The regret that I have right now is that he is not here for me to tell him that, and I wish he was.”
What happened during the East High shooting
Mason and fellow school dean Eric Sinclair were shot by a 17-year-old student, which led to a massive manhunt on March 22. As part of the student’s own safety plan, Austin Lyle required daily patdowns.
Mason said that on the day of the shooting, Lyle specifically asked for an assistant principal, and Mason radioed twice with no response. He said that’s when Sinclair stepped in and took Lyle into room 129, an office. Mason said that Sinclair radioed the assistant principal again and also a school safety officer but got no answer.
“Shortly after that, Eric was yelling on the radio, ‘Wayne! Wayne! Help me! Help me!'” Mason said.
Mason said that in his heart, he knew what was happening. He sprinted into the office and saw Sinclair and Lyle wrestling.
“I grabbed Austin and Eric said, ‘Gun, gun.’ Austin fired off some shots, I think two or three shots,” Mason said. “I had his arm, and Austin turned his wrist towards me and he fired two shots and he hit me. He stood there staring at Eric and I, still pointing the gun at us, and then he ran out of the room.”
Mason said he is a man of faith and leaned on God at that moment as he tried to stop the bleeding, prayed and held his bleeding friend’s hand until paramedics arrived.
School health staff heard the shots and went to render aid. They were also at the news conference on Monday and embraced Mason as he thanked them for saving their lives.
‘What should have had armed safety patrol there’
On Monday, Mason stood in front of the crowd and reflected on the traumatic day.
“We should have had armed safety patrol there every morning that Austin came into the school, because we knew his history. Everybody here knows his history,” Mason said. “They should have met Austin at the door with a show of force and said, ‘OK, we’re going to search him.’ Maybe, just maybe, that would have stopped that behavior. We don’t know.”
The dean called out the district for safety policies that put him and Sinclair in harm’s way. Mason also added that East High deans are not trained to do daily pat downs on students.
“One thing that really bothers me is that my friend Eric Sinclair should have never been put in that position,” Mason said. “Deans are not trained to do daily pat-downs. Some of the pat downs that I’ve seen at East High School are just casual. As a victim of school violence. I believe that there were things that we left on the table that should have been taken care of but weren’t.”
Mason believes armed safety patrol officers should be conducting pat downs and is calling on the district to do better and the community to come together.
He also dispelled what he called rumors. He said he never spoke to the superintendent or said he was “in good spirits and ready to get back to work.” Mason said that he’s only spoken to Superintendent Alex Marrero once since the shooting, when the superintendent came to the hospital, but he has had no communication with him since.
Criticism of Denver Public Schools’ safety policies continues on the heels of the superintendent releasing a first draft of its new safety plan.
Mason was asked on Monday if he would consider filing a lawsuit. He responded that he could not discuss it.