Hero High Schooler Who Was Killed Trying to Stop a School Shooting Had Just Lost His Dad

student tries to stop school shooting
Eric Strahan/GoFundMe.com
Sam Strahan was already grieving on the day that his friend tried to kill their classmates. The 15-year-old from Washington had recently lost his dad in a car accident, and when a friend came to Freeman High School with guns, prepared for a deadly rampage, Sam did everything he could to keep another family from suffering the same pain that he, his mom, and his sister were dealing with.


The shooter, named in the media as Caleb Sharpe, wasn't just one of Sam's pals -- according to witnesses, he was his best friend. However, that didn't matter when Caleb grabbed a gun from his duffel bag and tried to start shooting classmates on Wednesday morning. Luckily, the gun jammed. As Caleb went to take out a second gun, Sam used the opportunity to make the heroic move that cost him his life: He approached his friend trying to convince him not to harm anyone. 

sam strahan
Eric Strahan/GoFundMe.com

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"It sounds like he tried to walk up and tell him 'this isn't what you want to do,'" Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said in a press conference. Caleb didn't listen and instead killed Sam with a single bullet to the head. He continued shooting before Joe Bowen, the school's custodian and an air force veteran, could stop him from hurting anyone else while they waited for police to arrive.  

"Knowing the type of person that his father was, it doesn't surprise me one bit that Sam tried to stop the shooter," a family friend who wished to remain anonymous told the Washington Post.

Three other students were shot and are in stable condition at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. Knezovich described the events leading up to the shooting as "a case of a bullying type of situation." Both Sam as well as Joe are credited with preventing the casualty count from escalating as the shocked community processes their bravery as well as Sam's death.

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"We send our prayers out to the mother whose student is not coming home," Knezovich said. After Sam's dad died on Father's Day, his mom is now left also grieving for her youngest child, and Knezovich wants the community to realize that everyone needs to not only understand her pain but also work together to prevent "these senseless type of tragedies" from continuing to occur.

"We as a society need to do a better job teaching our children that hate and violence is not the way to solve things," he said.

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