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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Evil didn’t win. Love did’: Freeman community shares more impacts of 2017 school shooting

I letter is left at a memorial for the victims of the Freeman High School shooting in this photo from September 2017.  (DAN PELLE)

Like many parents of students at Freeman High School, Erin Campbell worried her daughter would never be the same after she witnessed a shooter kill her classmate.

Somehow, her daughter found hope in the pain, Campbell said.

“Evil didn’t win,” she said. “Love did.”

The Campbell family, like many others, shared how the shooting has affected them with Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price, who will sentence shooter Caleb Sharpe this spring.

Sept. 13, 2017, was a normal day for 15-year-old Peyton Campbell. She was worried she hadn’t finished her homework. As she walked to class she heard a loud pop. Her first thought was someone was getting asked to homecoming with balloons and one had popped.

She turned to look and instead saw Sam Strahan fall to the ground. She heard his head hit the floor, his eyes blank.

“When someone dies, their eyes go black,” she said.

She ran into a nearby classroom and the door slammed shut behind her, as if signaling the loss of her innocence, she said.

“It broke me,” she said.

Nights after the shooting were even worse than going back to school because what she saw would haunt her dreams.

Somehow, Peyton Campbell was able to find hope again. The memory of Strahan will stay in her heart forever, she said.

“His killer will be forgotten,” she added.

Kyla Hansen was “locker buddies” with Strahan. He had the top locker, her the bottom.

That morning, Strahan joked he wouldn’t hit her in the head with his locker door. Hansen said she replied that she could handle it, “because I am tough.”

Moments later, she saw Sharpe holding a gun.

“He had the look of nothing in his eye,” Hansen said.

Hansen is now in college studying to be a teacher, “so I can teach my students to be just like Sam,” she said.

Jackson Saddler was outside of his math class when he heard a loud “smack,” he wrote in his statement.

He thought a clumsy freshman had dropped their binder, but the reality of the situation quickly became clear, he said.

“With every bullet, there was increasing chaos as the hallway became a highway to safety,” he wrote.

Saddler ran into a classroom, diving under a desk.

“Doors slamming, heart racing and then an unforgettable scream coming from the girl on the other side of the wall,” he wrote.

After the shooting, he couldn’t focus in math class anymore.

“I could feel my brain melting out of my ears and onto the floor,” he said.

For years, Saddler said he pretended he wasn’t struggling. It wasn’t until he listened to others share how the shooting affected them that he was inspired to share his experience.

“Pretending was the thing that destroyed me the most,” he said.

For a former friend of Sharpe, the shooting made it difficult to trust people, Jordan Baumgardner wrote in his statement.

“It ruined my trust and reputation,” Baumgardner said.

The two were friends, and Baumgardner appeared in Sharpe’s YouTube videos where Sharpe shot airsoft guns.

Before he could go back to school, he had to have a mental health evaluation done, Baumgardner said.

Now, Baumgardner, a member of the National Guard, is scared to take photos or post online, he said. He struggles to trust people, he said.

“Caleb has caused so much damage in so many different ways,” he said.

Walter and Pat Jensen were on a road trip when they got the call that their oldest grandchild, Gracie Jensen, had been shot.

“The only thing that I can tell you is that her eyes are open and she is breathing,” Walter Jensen recalls being told by Gracie’s mother from the back of an ambulance.

A sniper in Vietnam, Walter Jensen said he knows what true fear means.

“A 14-year-old should never experience that kind of fear,” he said.

Despite her struggles, Gracie Jensen has gone through recovery with a smile, he said.

Walter Jensen said he believes Sharpe’s actions deserve the maximum sentence.

“Caleb’s cowardly actions have placed a life sentence on the Strahan family and all the victims involved, and he should receive the same life sentence,” Walter Jensen said.

Pat Jensen said her family has remained strong.

“I see and hear courage, and strength, and resilience in our own family and in their Freeman family,” she said.