The man accused of wounding two middle school students in a community still haunted by the Columbine massacre had become increasingly erratic in recent weeks, yelling at imaginary friends and complaining that eating macaroni and cheese made too much noise
, his father said Wednesday.
Investigators are looking into the bizarre behavior of 32-year-old Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood
as they try to figure out why the unemployed ranch hand allegedly showed up at his old school and started firing at students in the parking lot before being tackled by a math teacher.
The older man said that his son used to talk to himself a lot, but in the past month, he had begun yelling. The younger man also complained that the refrigerator was too loud and that certain foods made too much noise
, his father said.
Others said Eastwood would show up at a nearby gas station to buy cigarettes, but was often 20 or 30 cents short, and would mumble to himself as he read the sports section the newspaper.
"He has problems, but I never thought he'd go to the extent to hurt somebody," said his father, War Eagle Eastwood. "You can say you're sorry, but you can't replace the fear and hurt he's put in innocent people. He's put a hole inside of me."
As the math teacher was being hailed a hero, officials said the quick response was further proof that the community learned the lessons of Columbine in quickly responding to the shootings. But there was growing evidence the school missed a chance to head off the attack
Investigators said Eastwood walked through the doors of the Deer Creek Middle School earlier in the day, indicated he was a former student and chatted with teachers, apparently without drawing much suspicion.
Authorities said they didn't know the nature of his conversations with school staff before he went outside and opened fire with a bolt-action hunting rifle he stole from his father.
Sheriff's department spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said Eastwood left the building without being asked to do so. She said a school security officer was not at Deer Creek at the time. The officer also has duties at another school, but it hasn't been determined where he was when the shootings happened, Kelley said.
Asked about the possible security lapse, Jefferson County schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said only that there is a sign-in sheet that requires visitors to state their name and the purpose of their visit. She said school officials did not have access to the sheet for Tuesday because the school was closed as a crime scene.
Eastwood was jailed on $1 million bail on suspicion of attempted murder.
One of the wounded, Reagan Weber, was treated at a hospital and released. The mother of the other victim, Matt Thieu, said he was "doing well" at a hospital.
Authorities praised the response as evidence of how ready area schools are to respond to shootings after Columbine, but they also acknowledged the emergency manual does not call for teachers to pounce on gunmen.
Stevenson said Deer Creek's security precautions involve a single button in a secretary's office that automatically locks down the school in the event of a shooting. If something happens inside, teachers are to lock doors, get students out of hallways, keep them quiet so as not to tip off any gunmen and stay out of the line of sight, she said. All of that was done Tuesday, Stevenson said.
What Benke did "is pretty amazing," said Kelley. "We don't train people to do that."
"Everybody acted, nobody froze," she added.
Eastwood has an arrest record in Colorado dating back to 1996 for menacing, assault, domestic violence and driving under the influence.