A video showing a security guard at Parkrose High School disarming a student has gone viral. On May 17, then 18-year-old Angel Granados-Diaz walked into a classroom in the fine arts building holding a shotgun with the intent to kill himself. However, security guard and coach Keanon Lowe was there to stop him. Lowe grabbed the gun and can be seen in the video backing out of the room with one arm around Granados-Diaz, embracing him and patting him on the back. Another staff member eventually takes the gun away.
According to officials, Granados-Diaz was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time, and had only intended to hurt himself. His gun was loaded with one round, and had written “The last red pill 5-17-19 just for me” on it.
In a press conference earlier this year, Lowe was asked to recount the experience. “The door opens — I’m within arm’s length of the door, about 3 feet away from the door, and there’s a kid with a gun, a shotgun,” He had to think quickly. “In a fraction of a second, I analyzed everything really fast,” he said. “I saw the look in his face, look in his eyes, looked at the gun, realized it was a real gun and then my instincts just took over.”
However, Lowe still feels compassion for Granados-Diaz. In an interview with KGW8, he explained: “I had a real life conversation. Obviously, he broke down and I wanted him to know I was there for him. I told him I was there to save him, I was there for a reason, and this is a life worth living.”
The video was posted by KOIN-TV in October, after a public records request to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office. Since being released, it quickly gained attention from people across the country. But according to the Parkrose Superintendent, Michael Lopes-Serrao, it never should have been released. On the Parkrose School District Twitter page, he posted this statement:
“We learned last night that the security video footage of the May 17 incident at Parkrose High School was released by the district attorney’s office to KOIN news. It is important to know that Parkrose School District denied this request from KOIN for the public record this past week. We denied this request because we believe the release of the video is a violation of student rights through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). In addition, the release of the video has a significant impact on the students, staff, and families of Parkrose High School. This was a traumatic event for our students, staff, and community.”
Despite this denial, the District Attorney’s office was obligated to release the video because the laws protecting student rights does not apply to evidence in criminal cases. Some people share Lopes-Serrao’s sentiment, although many still consider Lowe a hero regardless of the circumstances around the video’s release.
Megan Moyer, a psychologist at Franklin High School, says that Lowe’s quick response was most likely a combination of being trained in trauma informed care and having background knowledge. “Things get reported in the newspaper, and there’s a whole iceberg of stuff underneath that you don’t see, that’s not reported in that article. He may have known the student before, he may have known the student’s friends, he may have known how this kid responded to positivity.”
She emphasizes the importance of trauma informed care, as well as communication between staff and students: “We all do better when we know we have each other’s backs, and I think that that’s a really big part of schools teaching students to trust.” For students having a crisis, feeling that they have an adult who can help them work through it is essential.
When asked how the government can better support the mental well-being of students, Moyer says that financing, as well as a focus on social-emotional learning as well as academic learning, is key. “More school psychologists, more social workers, more counseling.” Although there are no concrete warning signs for this kind of behavior, intuition, as well as a risk-assessment policy that is taken very seriously, can potentially help lower the risks.
Angel Granados-Diaz plead guilty to felony possession of a firearm in a public building as well as misdemeanor possession of a loaded firearm in public. He was sentenced to 36 months of probation, as well as mental health treatment.