2018 Huffman High School shooting
The 2018 Huffman High School shooting was a fatal incident that took place inside a classroom, after classes dismissed, at 3:45 PM on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at Huffman High School. The circumstances that led to the shooting remain unclear, but the result was the death of 17-year-old Courtlin Arrington, a senior who had been accepted to nursing school.
Michael Jerome "Mike Mike" Barber, a junior wide receiver for the Huffman Vikings football team, was treated for a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg. Responding officers from the Birmingham Police Department recovered a Hi-Point C9 9mm Luger-type semiautomatic handgun from the hallway floor nearby. A school employee was also treated at the scene for a minor injury. Early indications suggested that the shooting was accidental.
As the gunshots were heard, the school went on "lockdown", with students still in the building sheltering behind locked classroom doors. Several potential eyewitnesses who were in the classroom at the time were interviewed, while other students were allowed to leave.
After he was released from UAB Hospital, Barber was taken to Birmingham Police Headquarters for questioning. He was held overnight as a "person of interest" while investigators and prosecutors worked to determine what happened, and whether charges would be filed.
The high school remained closed on Thursday, March 8, allowing time for a full security sweep of the campus and for a "crisis team" made up of representatives from community organizations to begin working with those affected by emotional trauma.
According to Superintendent Lisa Herring the school has two working metal detectors, but there was no policy requiring their daily use, and they were not in use on the day of the shooting. Three school resource officers were on campus at the time.
The shooting took place during a national debate about gun violence in schools which followed a mass shooting with seventeen fatalities at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14. Students from that school publicly confronted politicians and gun lobbyists as they built up a national "Never Again" movement with marches and demonstrations. Several states, including Florida and Alabama, considered new gun and school security policies, combining small efforts to close loopholes allowing high-risk individuals to obtain guns with larger efforts to put more armed security officers into schools. The incident at Huffman High School was the first deadly shooting at a grade school since the Florida mass murder.
Huffman students participated in a "National School Walkout" on March 14. According to Birmingham City Schools Chief Operations Officer Troy Williams, the system is responding to the security lapse by reviewing its policies regarding the use of metal detectors and training staff in their use, adding closed-circuit cameras to cover blind spots, and adding alarms at exit doors.
From interviews conducted at the scene and later with family members and friends, investigators were able to determine that while Arrington and Barber acquainted, they had never been involved in a close relationship, nor were they involved in any ongoing disputes. No evidence of his acting with intent to harm her was found.
Recordings made by security cameras in the hallways showed that Barber entered the school and showed something in his pocket to two classmates in the hallway before going into the classroom where Arrington and others were preparing to leave. After the first shot, Barber returned to the hallway with a hood over his head and accidentally shot himself in the leg while attempting to put the gun into his waistband.
Five eyewitnesses who were with Arrington said that Barber came into the classroom teasing one girl before pulling the gun out of his pocket to show it off. One friend said that Arrington asked to see it, while others said that the two didn't speak to each other. The witnesses agreed that the gunshot, which struck Arrington in the chest, was accidental.
Detective James Towns interviewed Barber. The boy first claimed that he had found the gun in a school restroom and later said that he took it from a teammate's car in the parking lot at lunchtime. The teammate was interviewed and denied having a gun in his car. He told investigators that Barber had set up a meeting to buy a gun that morning, but the men he met with outside the school robbed him of the money he had brought.
On March 9 the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office announced that Barber would be charged with manslaughter and with being a minor unlawfully in possession of a handgun. He attended a preliminary hearing on April 27, where Judge Clyde Jones bound the case over to a grand jury to determine whether there was probable cause for an indictment.
The grand jury returned an indictment for reckless manslaughter on June 22. That charge, a class B felony, would result in a possible prison sentence of two to 20 years. In June 2019 Barber was convicted on the lesser charge of misdemeanor criminally negligent homicide before Judge Clyde Jones. He was sentenced to serve 12 months in prison.
Arrington's family filed a wrongful death suit in May 2018, naming the Birmingham Board of Education, Superintendent Lisa Herring, principal John Lyons Jr and the City of Birmingham as defendants, alleging that her death was caused by negligence on their part. The suit seeks punitive damages.
- Robinson, Carol (March 7, 2018) "Huffman High School shooting: Courtlin Arrington killed; Birmingham police question injured teen." The Birmingham News
- Robinson, Carol (March 8, 2018) "Huffman High School shooting: Student held in death of 17-year-old Courtlin Arrington." The Birmingham News
- Hrynkiw, Ivana (March 9, 2018) "Huffman High students return after deadly school shooting despite fear and grief." The Birmingham News
- Robinson, Carol (March 9, 2018) "Huffman High School junior charged in fatal shooting of classmate Courtlin Arrington." The Birmingham News
- Robinson, Carol (March 9, 2018) "Mom, family heartbroken after daughter's promising life ended in shooting at Huffman High." The Birmingham News
- Crain, Trisha Powell (March 13, 2018) "Birmingham school district adding metal detectors after death of Huffman student." The Birmingham News
- Hrynkiw, Ivana (April 27, 2018) "Judge: Death of Huffman High student not intentional but 'extremely reckless'." The Birmingham News
- Robinson, Carol (May 15, 2018) "Wrongful death lawsuit filed in shooting death of Courtlin Arrington at Huffman High School." The Birmingham News
- Robinson, Carol (June 29, 2018) "Teen indicted in death of classmate Courtlin Arrington at Huffman High School." The Birmingham News
- Sherman, Robert (June 13, 2019) "Michael Barber convicted of negligent homicide of Huffman High student." cbs42.com
- Cochran, Ariel & Drew Taylor (August 8, 2019) "Former Huffman student Michael Barber gets 12-month jail sentence for death of Courtlin Arrington." cbs42.com