DIXON – The man shot and wounded after firing shots at Dixon High School’s graduation practice Wednesday morning was charged late Wednesday afternoon in Lee County Court with three felonies.
Senior Matthew Milby, 19, is charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm, aggravated discharge at a school employee, and aggravated discharge at a school building, each punishable by 6 to 30 years in prison.
He’s being held on $2 million bond. A hearing hasn’t been set, but that may happen today, depending on his injuries.
Milby’s mother admitted to local TV stations that her son was the shooter, and said he had been caught smoking pot while on the football team and subsequently “ostracized.”
“There’s no justification for what he’s done, and he will take full responsibility for that,” Julie Milby told WTVO Channel 17 in Rockford. “Thank god they didn’t kill him. Thank god he didn’t kill anyone.”
But “the kid’s been real sad for a long time. His kindness got taken for weakness,” she said.
Her son was identified by several eyewitnesses as the person school resource officer Mark Dallas shot and injured Wednesday morning after Milby fired shots at graduation practice.
Illinois State Police, who are handling the investigation, were at the Milbys’ home at 4:30 p.m., waiting for a warrant to search the house.
Although several of his friends said he had not been to school in months, Milby was not expelled, as previously reported, did not drop out, and was eligible to graduate with his class, Superintendent Margo Empen said. She said she could not provide further details because of school privacy laws.
In fact, Milby went to the school this morning to pick up his cap and gown, his mother said.
Senior Caleb Carlson, 19, said he’s known Milby since middle school, when they were friends.
“I knew that he had quite a few guns,” he said.
Senior Tyler Adcock, 17, also has known Milby since middle school, “I never really talked to him in the last 2 years, but he never seemed malicious. I haven’t seen him since 2 days after the second semester [started]. ... I thought he dropped out.”
Classmate Lukas Wedekind, 18, said he ran track and cross country with Milby and knew him through football, but “hadn’t seen him at school since a month after winter break.”
His mother said she has no idea where her son, whom she described as “respectful” and “submissive,” got the gun. She said they did not have guns at their home.
He was charged May 15, 2017, and found guilty April 26 in Lee County Court of possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, and fined $120.
State Police ID’d Milby on Wednesday night. He is in custody and was being treated at KSB Hospital. No one else was injured.
Dallas, whose son, Joshua, is one of the graduates, was on duty at the time and is on paid administrative leave, as is protocol in an officer-involved shooting.
Counselors were on hand Wednesday evening at the school, and stayed as long as students or staff needed them. Today's classes have been canceled at the high school, although seniors will return for graduation practice at 1 p.m.
Pre-K through eighth-grade classes will be held as usual, with a heightened police presence, the school district reported on its website.
Milby came to the school around 8 a.m. and entered the foyer of Lancaster Gym, where about 150 seniors were getting ready to practice for Sunday’s ceremony.
Brianna Johnson, 19, saw him peeking in the window. He entered the gym with a long-barreled gun of some sort, and began shooting, she said.
“All of a sudden, we saw someone come in the new gym lobby doors, and we heard this pop! pop! pop!,” 18-year-old Kylie Shaw said. “We just thought it was firecrackers, then we saw pieces of the ceiling coming down.”
Milby fired several shots near the west gym, was confronted by Dallas and started running west on Armory Drive. He fired several shots at Dallas, who returned fire and hit him in the upper shoulder.
Both Brianna and Kylie heard three or four shots before gym teacher Andrew McKay slammed the door to the foyer and told everyone to “go, go, go,” then “everyone was sprinting in all different directions,” Kylie said.
Students fled through the north side door, and wound up in two groups, gathered near Snyder’s Drug Store, Kylie said.
Dallas, a 15-year Dixon PD veteran with 5 years as the school resource officer and 24 total years of law enforcement experience, was placed on paid administrative leave, as is policy.
“I could not be more proud of the police officer and the way he responded in this situation,” Chief Steven Howell said. “With shots ringing through the hallways of the school, he charged towards the suspect and confronted him head on.
“Because of his heroic actions, countless lives were saved.”
Brandon Stehl, 19, who completed high school early but was in the gym for the graduation rehearsal, said he thought the shooting was a senior prank initially.
“It was scary; at first, I didn’t think much of it, but then my heart rate sped up and people were rushing out,” he said. “I come back to school for one day, and this is something I never thought would happen; I wish it wasn’t real.”
Stehl said he knows Milby and described him as “hot-headed and reckless” but not someone who was bullied or had emotional issues.
Neither Kylie nor Brianna know Milby well, nor did they know the reason for his expulsion, they said.
“He seemed like a really nice kid, but then everything changed and he was angry and high all the time,” Brianna said.
Kylie said Milby has a reputation as a troublemaker.
“It’s just too bad that it had to be one of our graduation classmates,” Kylie said. “It’s just so sad that it happened, especially is such a close-knit community like Dixon.”
Students have had some active shooter training, but it was focused mostly on what to do if they were in a classroom, Kylie said.
Still, “I think that we were all prepared, and we had our natural instincts. I think everyone did an amazing job of following directions and doing what they had to do.
“It’s such a scary reality that we had to live through, ... but people were there for each other, and we all came together as a student body. We all did a really good job coming together, and I think in the face of such adversity, we handled it well. “
Friday was the last day of school for seniors class; the students were readying for graduation. Principal Mike Grady had just finished discussing how things would go Sunday when the shooting started, Kylie said
“We’re lucky the officer was there. His brave actions saved a lot of lives,” said City Manager Danny Langloss, whose daughter was among the seniors in the gym.
“I could not be more proud of the police officer and the way he responded in this situation. With shots ringing through the hallways of the school, he charged towards the suspect and confronted him ‘head on,’ he said in the release.
“Because of his heroic actions, countless lives were saved. We are forever indebted to him for his service and his bravery.”
Milby’s mother, who said she grew up with Dallas, said she “honestly would have to tell him thank you” for not fatally shooting her son.
Howell also praised students and staff, who “responded to the situation extremely well,” he said in the release.
“The district has been receiving ongoing training from the Dixon Police Department on how to respond to these situations. While removing students from the various classrooms, responding officers found that staff and students had barricaded the doors to the classrooms with desks, bookcases, and other objects, per the training that they had received.”
Dixon High was evacuated, Peoria Avenue was closed and all Dixon schools were put on lockdown. Parents were allowed to pick their children up at the baseball field at Page Park.
Local law enforcement were assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
– SVM reporter Gavin Jensen contributed to this report.
DIXON SCHOOL SCHEDULE
The Dixon School District is providing updates on its website, dps170.org, following Wednesday's shooting.
Following is the new schedule through the remainder of the school year. Local law enforcement will have an increased presence in and around all schools, the district said.
Today: Dixon High School students will not be in attendance. Pre-K through grade 8 will be in attendance. Dixon High School staff will report at the normal time. Seniors will report at 1 p.m. for graduation practice. AP statistics exam will begin at noon at Lincoln School.
Friday:Pre-K through grade 11 will be in attendance. Grades 9-11 will review for finals.
Sunday: Dixon High School commencement ceremony, 1 p.m. in Lancaster Gymnasium
Monday: Kindergarten-grade 8 will dismiss at 11:30 a.m. Last day of student attendance for grades K-8. Grades 9-11 will be in attendance for a full day. Finals for periods 1-4 will take place. Reagan Middlle School promotion, 6:30 p.m. in Lancaster Gymnasium
Tuesday: Pre-K through grade 8 Teacher Institute Day. Grades 9-11 will be in attendance until 11:30 a.m. Finals for periods 5-7 will take place.
May 25: Report cards will be available by noon.