Breitlow Shooting Still Relevant

Serena Stern and Erin Scholtus

In the wake of yet another shooting, America mourns the loss of those who were killed. As some advocate for change, a problematic mindset has people thinking, “That could never happen here.” As a matter of fact, it has. In the year 1993, assistant principal Dale Breitlow was shot in the hallway of Wauwatosa West by a former student.

The attack was carried out by Leonard McDowell, 21 years old at the time. According to newspapers from the time, McDowell was a gun enthusiast and had talked about owning multiple guns. A former Wauwatosa West graduate, McDowell had had some problems in high school that Breitlow had taken care of. This was considered as a possible motive. “He created a little bit of a history with that associate principal,” said Mr. Norstrem who’d been teaching at West for 2 years when the shooting happened. “He was finished at West, but he was still coming in.”

The issues McDowell had with Breitlow escalated. One day, in the middle of sixth hour, according to Mr. Norstrem, “It was sixth hour, the middle of sixth hour, and they did the lock down…It happened over by the math hallway and I don’t remember hearing anything. I don’t know that most of us in the room did…After about five minutes past the normal bell time, we started to figure out that something wasn’t quite right.”  

Something was very wrong. Breitlow, who was described as a “gentle giant” and a “hard working family man with a passion for sports and helping kids” by those who knew him, had been tragically shot and killed.

Following the shooting, the school grieved. Students planned a funeral. Many people attended the service. The entire funeral  was arranged by the students, who bought the ribbons and candles used.

The response to the shooting in terms of the man who carried it out was immediate. Multiple teachers identified McDowell as a suspect. A gun was found in the basement of a nearby apartment building, which, after a ballistics test, matched the one McDowell used for the shooting. People did everything they could to help the fallen Breitlow.

After the shooting, safety measures improved. Doors were locked. Alarms used. Cameras installed. A person was now located in the front by the doors. It would take more years and more tragic shootings for further safety measures.

Currently, in 2018, nothing has significantly changed. Shootings still happen too often. The victims sadly gone too soon, like Breitlow.