Georgia teacher had guns taken away from him after he set car afire, sheriff says

A Georgia teacher accused of firing a handgun in his classroom Wednesday had three rifles taken away from him after setting the family car ablaze at his home two years ago, a sheriff’s report stated.

Authorities responsible for protecting the school, Dalton High School, where Jesse Randal Davidson worked, said they were not aware of the episode until this week, The Associated Press reported.

Davidson was taken to the hospital for a mental evaluation and his rifles were seized for safe-keeping after he torched the Mitsubishi Outlander on Aug. 13, 2016.

GA teacher

Police said Jesse Randall Davidson, 53, had three of his rifles taken away after he lit his car ablaze.  (Dalton Public Schools)

The report also showed Davidson has been hospitalized at least three times in recent years as people worried about his state of mind.

Davidson, 53, did not hit anyone when he allegedly fired a handgun out his classroom window Wednesday but it caused chaos and immediate calls to abandon the idea of arming teachers as a solution to school shootings. President Donald Trump and other Republicans have endorsed arming teachers following the killings of 17 people at a Florida high school last month.

Davidson faces six charges including aggravated assault; terroristic threats and acts; and having a weapon on school property.

The additional details about Davidson’s past run-ins with law enforcement emerged as the school reopened Friday.

This undated photo provided by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office shows Jesse Randal Davidson. Social studies teacher Davidson barricaded himself inside a classroom at Dalton High School in Dalton, Ga., Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, and fired a handgun, sending students running outside or hunkering down in darkened gym locker rooms, authorities said. (Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Social studies teacher Davidson barricaded himself inside a classroom at Dalton High School in Dalton, Ga., Wednesday.  (Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

A deputy saw heavy smoke and flames pouring from the Mitsubishi as he pulled up to Davidson’s home in the small community of Rising Fawn, Georgia, the sheriff’s report said. The deputy told Davidson’s wife Lisa and their daughter Megan to seek safety in his patrol car.

Davidson’s adult son, Johnny, told the deputy that his father “was not acting like himself and was sitting down with a rifle in the back yard watching the vehicle on fire.”

Davidson’s son was able to talk his father into giving up the gun and two other weapons were also seized.

In another incident, Davidson reportedly walked into the lobby of the Dalton police headquarters and allegedly made up a story about someone who was murdered. Detectives could not verify Davidson’s claim and he was taken to the hospital after he expressed thoughts about killing himself.

In another incident, school employees and a police officer began searching Dalton High in January 2017 after Davidson went missing. He was later found sitting on the curb along a street a few blocks from the campus, being propped up by two school staff members, police said.

Davidson’s family faced financial hardship recently, federal court records showed. The family filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in late 2015. As part of that case, the teacher listed six rifles and one shotgun on a list of assets he owned.

School officials say they can’t talk about mental health issues of specific staff members. But Dalton High Principal Steve Bartoo told reporters that “as far as I know he was fit to be at work.”

“We don’t allow anyone in a classroom unless they are capable of doing their job and fit for their position,” school system spokeswoman Pat Holloway said.

But school officials might not have been aware that his guns had been taken the day his family car was burned.

“I very seriously doubt that they knew about that incident,” Dade County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chad Payne said Friday.

“It resulted in him being transported for a mental evaluation,” Payne said. “Once he’s in that ambulance and on the way to the hospital, his medical care becomes private so I doubt that they would know anything about it.”


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