A student who injured a teacher at a high school near Albany, N.Y. in 2004 and is serving a 20-year prison sentence on Friday praised Florida advocates and called the teacher who subdued him a “hero who I owe my life to,” in a letter he sent to the Times Union.
Jon Romano, who was 16 when he fired at least two shells from a pump-action shotgun before being tackled by an assistant principal at Columbia High School, was convicted of attempted murder and reckless endangerment and will be eligible for parole in 2021.
His letter, which comes in the wake of a mass shooting at a Florida high school where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 17 and injure at least 17, was in response to a column written by Chris Churchill questioning what would have happened if Romano went into the school with an AR-15 rifle.
“I know whenever another horrible shooting happens, he and all of my victims are hurt all over again from what I did to them. I want to take away their pain but knowing that I cannot, I want to prevent others from experiencing this pain,” Romano wrote.
Romano also praised the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have been vocal about gun reform following the Feb. 14 incident.
“I believe the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland are courageous and inspiring for demanding action from politicians,” Romano wrote. “Everyone nationwide should accept nothing less than meaningful, life-saving policy changes from their politicians.”
In his letter, Romano said he intends “to advocate for gun safety and mental health reform” after his release.