Two West Liberty-Salem administrators who played a large role in stopping an active shooter in January will receive a prestigious award for their actions.
Greg Johnson, principal of the high school and middle school, and Andy McGill, assistant K12 principal, will be honored at an event in Washington D.C. where they will be given the Jake Ryker award. The award is for a student or school employee who stops an active shooter.
Ely Serna, 17, has been accused of bringing a shotgun to school on Jan. 20 and firing several shots. Student Logan Cole was hit twice. Students and staff said they fled from the scene trying to avoid the suspect. Meanwhile, authorities said Johnson and McGill ran toward the bathroom Logan and Serna were in.
“I don’t know if I am real comfortable with the term heroic,” Johnson said in an interview with the Springfield News-Sun. “The decisions that we made that day did help prevent a bad situation from getting a lot worse. We save the term hero for the students that day. We felt like we did what we needed to do.”
Johnson said he didn’t want to go into specifics about what happened the day of the shooting. But he said when he and McGill entered the bathroom that Serna was holding the weapon.
“He set the gun down and laid down all on his own,” Johnson said.
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He credited a relationship McGill built with Serna throughout his time at West Liberty-Salem. He said McGill helped coach the football and the wrestling team and Serna was part of both.
“He had a more personal, closer relationship with Mr. McGill,” Johnson said. “I think that was key factor.”
The two held Serna until authorities arrived.
Johnson and McGill earned the award, West Liberty-Salem Superintendent Kraig Hissong said.
“Andy and Greg fit the mold,” Hissong said. “They restrained the active shooter until the police were able to arrive. I think it is well earned.”
Logan’s father, Ryan Cole, said days after the West Liberty-Salem shooting that he appreciated the two for going in and stopping the violence.
“I would like to especially thank Andy McGill and Greg Johnson, who entered the bathroom knowing that there had been multiple gun shots fired with no regard to their own safety but total concern for the safety of Logan and the rest of the student body,” Ryan Cole said.
The Jake Ryker Award is given out by officials at the ALICE Training Institute, a national organization that promotes classroom training in case of an active shooter. It is named after a student in Oregon who stopped an active shooting situation in 1998. Ryker was shot in the process, but held the gunman until police arrived.
Johnson said getting an award from the ALICE Training Institute is special because it was that training that helped students get to safety during the shooting.
“We are so impressed by the way our students and staff reacted,” he said. “The bravery and composure they showed, our active shooter response. It started before we made an announcement. The students and staff where the first ones to know what was going on and they did not wait to react.”
The school got more good news this week. A parents group donated $5,000 to the school that was raised after the shooting. Hissong said the district doesn’t know how it will spend the money yet.
“If there was any good about the situation that occurred it brought he community together,” he said. “You can feel the strength of your community in a time of need and I think that is what we felt.”
Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun first broke the news of the West-Liberty Salem school shooting on Jan. 20 and has closely tracked it since, including stories about the shooting, safety upgrades, mental health concerns, Ely Serna’s legal case and Logan Cole’s recovery.