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Friends of alleged shooter think teasing was final straw
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Sophomore Zach Torborg says on the morning of the shooting, Jason McLaughlin was acting normally and had cause to be in a good mood; he had just aced a presentation in the driver's ed course that the two were taking. (MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik)
High School classmates of the 15-year-old accused in the shooting at Ricori High School in Cold Spring say they are still in shock. The classmates and a neighbor say Jason McLaughlin gave no indication that he was capable of violence.

Cold Spring, Minn. — Across the street from home where Jason McLaughlin lived, an older man sweeping leaves from his driveway is struggling, like so many people in Cold Spring, with the question: why did the boy open fire on his classmates?

"I still haven't come to any conclusions," he says.

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Image Bryce Richter

The man, who doesn't want his name used, says he visited with McLaughlin's parents on Thursday morning. He says he's watched Jason grow up over the past 15 years'; he knew the young man to be respectful, a good kid who often worked hard alongside his dad in the yard.

"How could something like that happen? I mean, if he was a kid If it was a kid you could expect it from but not from him I mean. Like I say he wasn't a wild kid or anything like that. He seemed to get a long with all the kids I mean, all that business," he says.

Although adults around town seem to be at an absolute loss to figure out what led to the shooting, some of his classmates think they know.

On the other side of Cold Spring in the alley behind their homes, Zach Torborg and Bryce Richter -- both 15 -- say Jason was frequently teased at school. More than anything some kids would make fun of Jason's problem with acne, not only on his face, but on his chest and on his back.

Sophomore Zach Torborg says he met McLaughlin last summer. "He got a lot of stuff from people. You know, nobody would leave him alone. People would call him pizza face and stuff like that from his face."

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Image The home of Jason McLaughlin

Torborg says no one knew McLaughlin had access to a gun, although classmates say, like a lot of them, Jason liked to play paintball gun games.

Torborg says the morning of the shooting, Jason was acting normally and had cause to be in a good mood, he had just aced a presentation in the driver's ed course that the two were taking.

"He didn't do anything out of the ordinary. He looked normal, acted normal. That's why when I heard it was him I was like: no, it couldn't be," he says.

Freshman Bryce Richter says he was waiting for Jason to come up from the weight room to the gym when he heard shots. Then, Richter says, just a couple of feet away he saw Seth Barthell drop to the floor bleeding. Jason McLaughlin, he says, was attempting to reload when coach and teacher Mark Johnson ordered him to stop.

"I was just, like, totally shocked and stuff so I just stood there until Johnson told me to get out of there so I ran," he says.

If Jason McLaughlin brought a gun to school because he was tired of the teasing, classmates say they can't figure out why he targeted Seth Barthell and Aaron Rollins.

Those two boys, according to Richter, were not among the kids who teased McLaughlin.

"I think his main target was some other kid," he says.

Richter says he couldn't image going after someone with a gun at school, even though he says freshmen take a lot of abuse from upper classmen.

Zach Torborg says last year, his freshman year, he faced the same sort of harassment McLaughlin had faced. And Torborg says he understands how someone could be driven to such violence.

"He was a small kid. He wasn't very husky. Not very muscular. He was short. You know, people called him 'shrimp' all of the time and I used to be in the same position until last year; then I had a growth spurt. And I had a lot of the same problems. Yeah it was bad. It made me not even want to go to school," Torborg says.

Torborg says he wishes McLaughlin would have asked someone for help.

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