'Cold and callous' were the words a Marshall County Detective used to describe accused Marshall County High School shooter Gabe Parker.
A Kentucky State Police detective described Parker as “shockingly calm.” They both interviewed him shortly after the shooting and their testimonies recounting those interviews in a juvenile court hearing, were recently released along with other previously sealed documents. The testimonies offer insight into the events that transpired the morning of January 23, Parker’s possible motives and demeanor.
The testimonies of Marshall County Sheriff's Detective Captain Matt Hilbrecht, Kentucky State Police Detective David Dick and KSP Critical Incident Response Team Detective Matt Wise were presented during a probable cause hearing in Juvenile District Court on January 25.
Captain Hilbrecht said Parker was read his Miranda Rights before the interview and stated that the entire interview, along with the reading of rights was recorded at the Sheriff's Office. The interview lasted nearly two hours, according to Hilbrecht, before Parker had asked for a lawyer. The interview ceased upon that request.
In recounting his interview with Parker, Hilbrecht said when Parker was asked when he had thought of shooting the school, he replied 'about a week.' Hilbrecht said he had determined the ‘actual step’ the night before. Hilbrecht said Parker told him he obtained his step-father's pistol from a shelf in the bedroom closet by tucking the gun (which was in a case) into a laundry basket that had clothes in it the night before the shooting. He used the clothes to conceal the weapon and took the basket to his room.
The gun was identified as a Ruger semi-automatic 9mm pistol.
Hilbrecht said in a further discussion with Kentucky State Police troopers, Parker had said he also contemplated the ‘pros and cons’ of carrying out the shooting and contemplated harming himself and the results such actions would have on his family. He said Parker had stated that he wondered what prison life was like.
Kentucky State Police Detective David Dick also interviewed Parker. "He was clear there was no kind of bullying,” Dick said. He said Parker did not mention any experience of that nature, or arguments or negative interactions. He said Parker said he was in a ‘good relationship’ with his mother and step-father and that his relationship with his father ‘had gotten a great deal better.’ He made no mention of any issue with a girlfriend or ex-girlfriend, according to Dick.
Dick noted that Parker said he had suicidal thoughts in December, but said he felt his family would hurt more from him killing himself than harming someone else.
The morning of the shooting, Parker told Hilbrecht that he removed the pistol from the clothing, took it out of the case and put it in his book satchel with a spare magazine. There was also a magazine in the gun. He also placed a hunting knife in the bag. He said he recently got the knife as a Christmas gift. As to why he had the knife, he said he feared that when he ran out of bullets that he needed to defend himself if children attacked him.
According to Hilbrecht, Parker said he had overslept in the morning and missed the bus. He said it was otherwise a normal morning. He ate a bowl of cereal and his mom dropped him off at school. He went to the band room and spoke with friends, wanting to make sure they were safe before going into the commons area. Hilbrecht said there was a 'coin flip,' he asked his friends 'heads or tails' and had said they got it wrong. He later said he didn't know details involving the coin flip.
According to Hilbrecht, Parker then went to the commons area, looked around and, in his own words, “opened fire.”
Kentucky State Police Critical Incident Response Team Detective Matt Wise said he observed school surveillance footage of the shooting. He said Parker can be seen “clearly” in the footage and that slowing down the tape shows muzzle flashes from the gun. He said students can be seen fleeing in every direction and falling down on the ground as a result of gunshot wounds. Wise then proceeded to detail the wounds of every victim in the charges against Parker, including the two that were fatal.
Hilbrecht asked Parker if he had any motive. "The biggest thing that he gave me was that he said he was an atheist and that life had no purpose, had no meaning, his life had no purpose. Other people’s lives also had no purpose," Hilbrecht said. He went on to say that Parker described wanting to 'further society through science' but said he was failing the science course, felt he had no purpose in life and wanted to "break the monotony."
Hilbrecht said Parker described the shooting as an 'experiment' and wanted to see how students would respond, how police respond, how society would respond and how people would react.
Hilbrecht said, after shooting, Parker had dropped the gun outside the band room. He said Parker had stated that he realized he could hold up without it against police, that he thought they would kill him and decided he didn’t want to die. Students nearby motioned to Parker to come hide with them, presumably not realizing that he was the shooter. He went in there and blended in until teachers directed them to the weight room. He said he considered pulling out the knife in his bag, but decided there was no purpose in doing so. He was later apprehended by police coming out of the weight room.
Hilbrect said Parker came out with no resistance, no issue and no emotion. He told police no one else was involved and that he was the only one. He said he hadn't discussed the shooting with anyone else and said no one else had knowledge of the incident prior to it occurring. Parker was described as being cold and callous, not emotional, during the interview. He was shown a photo of one of the female victims and said he 'didn't know her.' He said Parker had asked how many people he had wounded or if anyone had died.
When asked if Parker targeted any specific person, Hilbrecht said, 'he refuted that.' He said he went to the commons area and started shooting, "just spraying bullets." He said he never had an individual targeted.
"It was like nothing I've ever seen and I've been doing this for 18 years," Hilbrect said of Parker's demeanor during the interview, "It was bizarre." Hilbrect said in past interviews with murder suspects there was typically remorse or reaction, but there was none in this case. At some point during the interview, police gave Parker McDonald's and he ate a cheeseburger and fries.
KSP Detective Dick described Parker as “shockingly calm.”
"This wasn't a question of who committed this act. It's on video. It was a question of why," Hilbrecht said.
The testimony is part of juvenile records recently released by the Marshall County Circuit Court. Parker was 15 at the time of the shooting. He is now 16. He is being tried as an adult on two counts of murder and 14 counts of first-degree assault. He has been indicted and arraigned by a grand jury. Future proceedings will be public.
A hearing is scheduled on March 12.