DIXON – A year ago today an armed student opened fire in Dixon High School and caused a ripple effect throughout the area to put a closer eye to security and training.
On the morning of May 16, then 19-year-old DHS senior Matthew A. Milby Jr. started shooting in a school hallway with a 9mm semi-automatic rifle near the gym filled with about 180 of his classmates practicing for graduation.
Milby fired at gym teacher Andrew McKay, then took off running when confronted by school resource officer Mark Dallas, who chased him outside. Milby shot at Dallas, and Dallas returned fire, striking him in the shoulder and the hip. No others were injured.
The school district did an analysis of the incident and reviewed feedback from law enforcers and community members on what went well, what needs to be tweaked, and what needs to be changed regarding school safety and the response to a crisis.
The district also took another look at security upgrades, which were already planned for in the multi-million dollar project to make improvements to the high school and bring it up to code. The School Board signed off in October on $117,816 of new security cameras and other upgrades after working with law enforcement on recommendations.
School districts throughout the area introduced or sped up plans to have their own school resource officers in place, including Morrison, Oregon, Erie and Eastland districts as well as Sauk Valley Community College.
About a week after the shooting, a bill was introduced that would allow school districts to put a tax increase referendum on the ballot to pay for school resource officers, but it died in committee.
State Rep. Tom Demmer introduced mirror legislation earlier this year, which passed the House in late March and is currently in the Senate.
“Student safety is a paramount concern for all school districts, and budget constraints often limit the resources they are able to provide to enhance student safety and well-being,” Demmer said after the bill passed the House. “HB 3244 allows, by referendum and the approval of local voters, more local control so that individual school districts can make staffing decisions involving school resource officers and mental health professionals that are in their students’ best interests.”
Last year marked a record 97 school shootings throughout the country, more than double 2017, according to the K-12 school shooting database by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security.
Sgt. Dallas started in law enforcement 25 years ago and has been with the Dixon Police Department for nearly 16 years, the last 5 he’s spent as the high school resource officer.
He has been lauded on the local, state, national and international level for his quick thinking and heroic actions on the day
He’s racked up many awards and honors in the last year including being given the Medal of Valor by the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and was named the 2018 Dixon Citizen of the Year.
President Donald Trump praised Dallas in October when he was named the 2018 Officer of the Year by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and former Gov. Bruce Rauner proclaimed May 30, 2018, as Officer Mark Dallas Day.
Several other school officials and law enforcement have received commendations locally including DHS Principal Mike Grady, Athletic Director Jared Shaner, Coach Andrew McKay, Lee County Sheriff John Simonton, Dixon police Sgt. Mike Wolfley, and Illinois Armory National Guard Staff Sgts. Kelly Bishop and Blair Crum.
Milby unfit for trial
Milby, 20, was found unfit to stand trial in late March after a re-evaluation of his psychological state prompted by another hospitalization from an eating disorder he developed across several months.
He’s in the custody of the Department of Human Services and is being evaluated on a monthly basis to gauge his fitness for trial.
Milby was previously hospitalized in Rockford and Dixon for refusing to eat or to take medical treatment while in jail, and the county is paying more than $80,000 for his hospital care.
No motive for the shooting has been made public, nor has there been any indication who, if anyone, Milby was targeting that day.
He is charged with two counts of attempted murder and four counts involving aggravated discharge of a firearm. The charge involving Dallas carries 20 to 80 years in prison, with a potential 20-year enhancement; the other carries 6 to 30 years in prison, plus 20 years. The first two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm carry 10 to 45 years; the other two 6 to 30 years. All require him to serve at least 85 percent.
Milby also is charged with two counts of aggravated battery and one of misdemeanor battery after investigators say he got into a brawl Aug. 31 with two other Lee County Jail inmates, climbed onto the back of one and tried to strangle him, and struck another. Neither of them were charged.
The felony is punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison on each count.