Eastwood could be granted temporary, unsupervised trips

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By Deborah Swearingen

Bruco Eastwood could be granted temporary, unsupervised trips from the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, depending on how a Jefferson County judge rules at a Dec. 15 hearing.

Eastwood, 39, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in October 2011 for the February 2010 shooting at Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton. During the shooting, Eastwood was accused of bringing a high-powered rifle into the school and injuring two eighth-grade students, Matthew Thieu and Reagan Weber.

A jury did find Eastwood guilty of possession of a weapon on school grounds, but Judge Christopher Munch said Eastwood served the time for this charge while in custody while his case was pending in court.

The defense team provided information showing that Eastwood has struggled with schizophrenia since 2002. The Courier previously reported that a large portion of the information provided relied upon hundreds if not thousands of rambling and largely incoherent journal entries Eastwood made since late 2002, when he was diagnosed with an early stage of schizophrenia at Porter Hospital in Denver.

Eastwood’s journal made mention of invisible forces — transformers, “loser bugs” and slime — that had begun to take over his body, purportedly preventing him from eating, attaining a GED and/or holding a steady job.

The request for unsupervised visits, which was officially made Aug. 31, comes two years after a judge granted supervised visits for Eastwood. During the supervised visits, Eastwood was required to wear a GPS monitor and could only leave the facility for a limited amount of time, according to the Jeffco DA’s office.

Prosecutors with the DA’s office and family members of the victims opposed both the initial request and the current one.

“The case involved the defendant bringing to Deer Creek Middle School a hunting rifle, and shooting and seriously injuring two middle school students. His conduct demonstrated that he was a severe danger to the safety of others,” District Attorney Pete Weir wrote in the objection letter.

Former Deer Creek Middle School math teacher David Benke is credited with tackling the shooter and preventing more harm from being done. Praising Benke and others at Deer Creek is something Noelle Thieu mentions in her objection letter. 

“Luckily, no one was killed,” she wrote. “Our family is so fortunate that the heroic teachers on site saved all but two children from getting hurt.”

In the letter, which is attributed to the entire Thieu family, Noelle also cited Eastwood’s “violent history” and mentioned worries about his mental stability.

John McDonald, executive director of security and emergency management with Jeffco Public Schools, was there in the aftermath of the 2010 shooting at Deer Creek Middle School.

“It was a pretty awful day,” he said, noting it marked the third shooting at a Jeffco school.

The school district worked with the district attorney’s office in preparing a letter of opposition.

“At a time right now when we’re seeing so many of those tragic events, it really brings into focus concerns of safety and community safety,” McDonald added. “I think our community deserves to have us stand up and say this is not OK. I think we’ve got be a voice for our kids and for our staff.”

Should a judge grant Eastwood unsupervised visits, McDonald said the district might look at enacting a “Columbine approach” to security at Deer Creek. While he would not elaborate too much on what that might entail, he said it could include enhanced patrols and other security upgrades.

When someone who threatened school security before may be in the community again, it requires the district to think a bit differently in terms of safety, McDonald added.

“I think more parents demand that we look at this seriously, which we’re doing, and that we put in protocols and systems that provide additional protection,” he said.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.