A school shooter, in his own words: ‘I wasn’t wanted by anyone’

James “Austin” Hancock of Madison Township, Ohio, was 14 years old the first time he appeared in court after a Feb. 29, 2016, school shooting.

CINCINNATI — He and his girlfriend had broken up.

His parents wouldn’t let him run on the track team.

And he had been abusing Adderall, a stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, for about a year.

This was 14-year-old James “Austin” Hancock.

On Feb. 29, 2016, a few weeks before his birthday, Hancock brought a handgun to Madison Junior/Senior High School in Madison Township, Ohio, about 30 miles north of Cincinnati and shot two students at lunch. Two others were injured from shrapnel or trying to leave the scene.

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No one died, but the incident sent shock waves across this community of about 8,500 people between Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio.

Yet Hancock didn’t plan to shoot up his school, he said July 27 from his new home, Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility in Circleville, Ohio, about 80 miles east of his family.

The teen wasn’t happy with his life. When he stole a gun from his great-grandmother the day before, he said he never intended what he ultimately did with it.

These were among the revelations Hancock gave in a deposition taken last year. A transcript of the sworn testimony was filed in a civil lawsuit against the teenager and his family.

That lawsuit was dismissed earlier this month.

USA TODAY typically does not identify juveniles charged with a crime, but Hancock’s name has been widely reported and Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones named him immediately after he was apprehended.

In court, the teen never spoke much. Even an interview with a sheriff’s deputy after his arrest didn’t go into much detail.

The following story, about the how and the why of this school shooting, was pieced together using Hancock’s own words:.

1:08 p.m. July 27, Circleville, Ohio

“I felt like I wasn’t wanted by anyone, especially my mom,” he said early in the deposition.

“It seemed like the older I get, the more I see her. But like I went a couple years where I didn’t even see her at all — no birthday cards or any of that.”.

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Hancock’s biological parents split up shortly after he was born, and his dad got full custody of him when he was 5. His father and stepmom have two other young children.

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“It’s kind of like a chainlink fence — just feeling like I wasn’t wanted by anyone because I’d go to my mom’s house and she has three other kids so I felt like I wasn’t wanted there,” Hancock said. “And then I’d go back to my dad’s house and they have two kids, but they seem like they always focus all their time with them.

“I spent most of my time in my room, but they never really paid attention,” he said.

Hancock said his eighth-grade year started well. But the longer it went on, the worse it got.

He regrets not talking to a counselor about the feelings building up inside of him.

“I mentioned some stuff to my grandma … But nothing major, nothing that was really bothering me,” he said.

“I talked to her about stuff with my dad about how he was being really harsh on me,” Hancock said. ” And, I mean, he’s told me — he’s told me a few times before that he hated me and that he wished I … Wasn’t his son.”.

After the then-14-year-old was arrested, a sheriff’s deputy asked Hancock why he did it: “So I wouldn’t have to go back home,” he said.

At age 16 in the deposition, Hancock was giving a deeper explanation.

“I didn’t really like my home life because I was always grounded for my grades,” he said. “So it was always a strict home life.

“And then I found out my girlfriend was cheating on me, so that was a big deal. And, I don’t know, after that I just started failing a couple of my classes, so it would just be more rough on me at my house.

“I wanted to be on the track team, but that’s also when my grades were bad. My teacher said … As long as I had my grades at D+ — because she was … One of the track coaches — as long as I have a D+, I would be on the team.

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“So I brought my grades up to a D+, but to my parents that wasn’t good enough. So they wouldn’t let me on the team,” he said.

Hancock had been taking Vyvanse, a drug most often used to treat ADHD, since he was 6. He switched to Adderall when he was 11.

He started abusing the drug when he was 13, he said.

Instead of taking the pills as prescribed, Hancock would save up 10 of them and take several at a time, he said. He did this the night before the shooting.

“I just wanted to get high off of it, I guess, just to relieve all these things — like, all these emotions that I was feeling,” he said in the deposition.

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“I’d just use it to get rid of my feelings. But really after the medicine went away, I would just feel worse.

“I ended up getting addicted to that, but I started getting really skinny because I didn’t really eat,” he said. “But the Adderall seemed like it was messing with my emotions somehow, like just made me angrier and more depressed.

“Eventually, my parents were like, ‘Well, we need to reduce this milligram because you’re getting really skinny off of it.’ So they reduced it, but they had still had my old pill bottle so I’d just take those pills out of that.”.

The weekend before the shooting, Hancock visited his mom and went to Dave & Buster’s to celebrate his brother’s birthday. He told his dad he would come home after the party, but he didn’t really want to.

He kept telling his grandmother this and eventually left with her.

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She bought him a BB gun at Walmart because his birthday was only a few weeks away, he said. They went to his great-grandmother’s house the next day, where Hancock showed off his present and talked about hunting with his father.

His great-grandmother showed him her handgun. It was the one he would fire in school that Monday.

His great-grandmother made a bed for him at 11 p.M., But he asked to stay in the living room. That’s where she kept the gun.

Hancock stayed up past 2:30 a.M., Drinking energy drinks and watching Netflix.

“That night I was thinking about the gun I saw: Like, should I take it? Should I not take it? Like, because I had no intention to do what I did with it.

“I guess I just wanted to have it for showing off or whatever,” he said.

“When I was back in my dad’s house, I just put the gun under my bed,” he said. “But, like, after I had gotten home I regretted taking it because I knew she was going to find out sooner or later that the gun was gone.

“The next morning, I wanted to tell my stepmom. But I could only imagine what kind of trouble I’d be in, so I didn’t tell her,” Hancock said.

When the teen returned home from his great-grandmother’s house, his dad was mad. He yelled at him for staying away the whole weekend and locked up his BB gun.

“I was scared that Sarah, my stepmom, was going to find it in my room if I went to school because she had found, like, video games or stuff that they didn’t really want me to have.

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“So … I had put the gun in my backpack to go to school with no intention of doing what I did.

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“But I brought it to school, and when I was in the classroom it was still in my backpack,” he said. “But after that, I just did … My work, but I had this really anxious feeling that somehow someone was going to find out that it was in my backpack.

“I had told my buddy that I had it in my backpack or two buddies, actually.

“And so when we went to lunch, I still had that anxious feeling that someone was going to find it in my backpack, so I had tooken (sic) it out and put it in my lunchbox.

“And when I went to the cafeteria, I went straight to the bathroom,” Hancock said. “And my two friends had followed me and they wanted to see it. So I showed it or whatever, but I put the clip in one pocket and the gun in another pocket so I could eat my food.”.

“So when I went back out and sat down, I started eating my food. But I had sweatpants on, and the clip was like slick metal, so it kept trying to slide out of my pocket.

“So then I went back to the bathroom, and I put the clip in the gun,” Hancock said.

“And when I went back, I guess one of the buddies I told — because he knew, like, I was mad at everything for like the longest time — so he was worried that I was going to do something.

“And I just had a gut feeling he was going to tell someone, so I started getting really anxious and didn’t know what to do. And my victims were sitting at a table about 10 feet from me, but I passed them.

“I could see my buddy whisper to some girl that I had the gun, and she started panicking.

“And on top of that I had took Adderall the night before, the Adderall that I had saved up, and it had carried into that morning, so I was, that really boosted my anxiety.

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“So she started panicking and running and ran to the office, and from then it just felt like I blacked out and that’s when everything happened.

“It just seemed like everything went blurred,” Hancock said.

Four months after the shooting, Hancock was sentenced to juvenile detention until he is 21. He is now 16, and his birthday is in a few weeks.

Follow Keith BieryGolick on Twitter: @KBieryGolick.

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