Public Safety

Did Iowa 12-year-old pull the trigger to get attention or to kill his teacher?

Defense argues Scott County boy guilty of bad decision, not attempted murder

Assistant Scott County Attorney Julie Walton on Tuesday holds the gun Luke Andrews took to his junior high in Eldridge last August and pointed at a teacher, pulling the trigger. Andrews, now 13, is on trial for attempted murder, carrying weapons on school grounds, and assault while using or displaying a dangerous weapon. The jury began deliberating the case Tuesday afternoon. (Kevin Schmidt/Quad-City Times)
Assistant Scott County Attorney Julie Walton on Tuesday holds the gun Luke Andrews took to his junior high in Eldridge last August and pointed at a teacher, pulling the trigger. Andrews, now 13, is on trial for attempted murder, carrying weapons on school grounds, and assault while using or displaying a dangerous weapon. The jury began deliberating the case Tuesday afternoon. (Kevin Schmidt/Quad-City Times)
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DAVENPORT — A jury of seven men and five women will decide if Luke Andrews, 13, intended to kill his teacher in a North Scott Junior High School classroom last August.

In their closing arguments, prosecutor Julie Walton and defense attorney Melanie Thwing agreed on Tuesday that Andrews, then 12, pointed a loaded Smith & Wesson .22-caliber in the face of his seventh-grade social studies teacher, Dawn Spring, and pulled the trigger the morning of Aug. 31, the fifth day of the school year.

They disagree about whether he intended to kill her.

The defense holds Andrews “made a bad decision because he wanted attention.”

Thwing pointed to the messages and memes Andrews sent to his classmates depicting an anime girl with a slashed wrist and an anime girl hanging. Those messages went unanswered, she said.

Andrews showed one classmate the gun in his back pack on the bus the morning of Aug. 31, she continued. But he didn’t get the reaction he was looking for, so he upped the ante when he got in the classroom and pointed the gun at Spring and her student teacher, Kaitlyn MacDonald.

That does not mean he intended to kill anyone, she argued.

The safety prevented the gun from firing, and if he intended to kill someone, he had time to do that, Thwing told the jury.

Instead, she said, the boy got the attention he wanted and calmed down immediately, walking 120 feet from Spring’s classroom to a counselor’s office without doing anything to her or anyone else.

Evidence, she argued, shows Andrews is guilty of assault and carrying weapons, not attempted murder.

“The facts are that Luke made a bad decision because he wanted attention,” Thwing said. “He brought a gun to school. He knew how the safety worked, and he engaged the safety. You cannot find Luke Andrews guilty of attempt to commit murder. There’s more than enough reasonable doubt.”

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Walton, the prosecutor, argued, “This wasn’t for attention. This was to kill somebody.”

In her rebuttal, Walton argued “you don’t need bullets to get attention.”

“Luke Andrews brought a loaded weapon to school, a loaded firearm,” Walton said. “This wasn’t for attention; this was to kill somebody. That’s what loaded guns do, and he pointed it at Dawn (Spring), and he pulled the trigger. But for Luke Andrews’ incompetence with that gun, this would be another case. This would be a horrific case.

“But he doesn’t get discounts for incompetence. He’s guilty. He tried to kill Dawn Spring. That is the evidence.”

Walton referenced Spring’s testimony, that the teacher batted the gun away two or three times, but he kept pointing it back at her.

Spring got Andrews out of the classroom and walked him down the hall to the office of school counselor Holly Leinhauser, and the two women wrestled Andrews for the gun.

“He didn’t give up that gun willingly,” Walton said. “They had to struggle with it. And finally, when they got the gun away from him, Holly’s doing what a counselor does and saying ‘why, why?’ His response is to the effect, ‘I wanted to end it all and anyone that got in my way.’

“And who got in his way that morning? Dawn Spring, and his intent was to end her. And thank God that plan was foiled.”

Andrews, now 13, dressed in a light blue button-down shirt and tie, sat hunched forward as he has been for much of the trial.

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His family, Eldridge police and school staffers, including Spring and MacDonald, were in the courtroom to hear the closing arguments.

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