Gunman in 1982 Virginia Hostage Siege Now Hoping to End School Shootings

Playing Convicted School Shooter Offers Insight Into Mindset of a Gunman

More than three decades after holding 10 people hostage for 21 hours at a Virginia school, James Stevens is on a mission to stop campus shootings.

In 1982, Stevens, armed with a high-powered Mossberg hunting rifle, walked the corridors of Lake Braddock Secondary School, firing off rounds.

"I just started shooting," Stevens told Inside Edition. "The kids were running down the hallway. I was shooting from the hip. There's screams and yelling and just total fear."

Inside his head, Stevens said he heard "many, many voices," and they were screaming, "Kill, kill."

Stevens was 18 at the time, and a breakup with his girlfriend drove him over the edge, he said. And like the Columbine, Parkland and Santa Fe school shootings, the campus was evacuated.

But he took nine students and the principal hostage. For nearly a day, he talked with hostage negotiators.

"I was threatening the police with the hostages' lives," he said. 

Bethany Searfoss, then an eighth grader, remembers running to get away from the gunfire and chaos.

"I was scared," she says now. "But in the moment, there was just a lot of confusion. I was escorted out by a SWAT team."

She has made peace with what happened, she said, and she forgives Stevens.

Stevens surrendered without harming anyone. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

He now tries to give insight into the mindset of a mass shooter. "The first 10 to 15 minutes is the worst time of any shooting situation, because the rage is so strong," he says. 

"My goal at 53 years of age is to reach out to the lost and get them to chose life instead of the path of destruction and death."

Stevens volunteers as a sound man and musician at the What's New Worship center, where he has made a commitment to reach out to troubled teens, for more information, click here

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