JACKSBORO, Tenn. – In the moments before Kenneth S. Bartley opened fire on three unarmed Campbell County Comprehensive High School administrators, the former student said he felt a sense of dread set in.
Then he doesn't remember anything.
"I can't recall," he testified in day 4 of his jury trial. "It happened so fast from (the time) the first shots (were fired) to me being on the ground."
Bartley, who was 14 when the shooting happened that killed his assistant principal, Ken Bruce, testified in court Thursday for the first ever, recounting his version of the events leading up to the fatal shootings and painting a picture of a worried, doped-up teenager who was trapped in a tiny office "with three grown men."
"I felt scared," he said. "I felt threatened."
Bartley faces a series of charges, including first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder stemming from the Nov. 8, 2005 shootings.
His attorneys have never denied that he killed Bruce and injured Assistant Principal Jim Pierce and Principal Gary Seale, but have said it wasn't deliberate.
Instead, they've argued, the former student was high on anti-anxiety medication and fired randomly after panicking.
Bartley, now 22, calmly testified for about 90 minutes Thursday in Campbell County Criminal Court before Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood. He told the court room that he was apologetic.
"I'm sorry – I would do anything to take it back," he said.
Bartley said he spent much of his childhood riding his four wheeler, hunting, fishing and watching the Cartoon Network. He testified that he made "good" grades; his favorite class was keyboarding; and that he never had a problem with any of his teachers or the administrators while attending high school.
Bartley testified that on Nov. 8 he scoured his house, looking for Xanax that he thought his father's girlfriend kept around. He found two Valium, which he snorted, some Xanax, and a .22-caliber Beretta handgun.
He planned to give the pistol to his neighbor, Bill Crowley, in exchange for some oxycodone, a painkiller.
That day, Bartley went to school around 11 a.m., checking in late after claiming he went to the doctor's because he had a cold.
By a little after lunch, word spread that he was carrying a gun in his right pocket.
A school resource officer escorted him from math class around 1:45 that day. Bartley said he was calm as the two walked to the principal's office. He wasn't worried.
"I wasn't under the impression anything was wrong," he testified.
Once inside the "tiny" office, he talked with Bruce and Pierce for "10 to 15 minutes" while they waited for Seale. When the principal arrived, he asked "Little Kenny" if he had anything in his pocket.
"I was scared, nervous, panicking because I knew I was in trouble," Bartley testified.
As Seale reached into the student's pocket, Bartley pulled out the gun and pointed it at the ground. He then stood up and faced the principal.
At that point, Pierce, who was behind Bartley, started to move.
"I fired in a moment of panic," he said, adding that he "was just shooting" and not aiming.
Pierce quickly took him to the ground.
"I kept saying 'what have I done, what have I done,'" Bartley testified.
"I would do anything to take it back," he added. "I was crying, I was feeling shocked. I had hurt three people . . . but I had no idea of the extent of it at the time."
Bartley, who also shot himself in the hand, told a police officer that he blamed the shooting on drugs.
"I told him that I had ruined my life in just 10 seconds and it would never have happened if I hadn't taken Xanax," he said.
During cross examination, prosecutors attempted to show contradictions in Bartley's testimony. They brought up past interviews with authorities and noted that he did admit to knowing some details that took place during the shooting.
Bill Crowley, the neighbor Bartley said would exchange weapons for pills, denied the claim under testimony.
"I would never trade any kid pills," he said.
Closing arguments are set for tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.
The man who is accused of shooting three administrators as a teenager at Campbell County High School is testifying in his own defense Thursday.
Kenneth Bartley, now 23, was only 14 when the shooting happened in 2005. Vice-principal Ken Bruce was killed. Principal Gary Seale and Vice-principal Jim Pierce were injured. Bartley initially pleaded guilty to the shootings, but that guilty plea was thrown out after Bartley's attorney argued he was pressured into making the deal without his parents present. His trial started Monday.
The prosecution wrapped up their case on Wednesday, and the defense began calling their witnesses Thursday morning.
On the stand, Barley said he was sorry, and would do anything to take it back. He also blamed the drug Xanax for making him do it.
Bartley admitted to snorting Valium before he went to school that day, and snorting some Xanax after lunch. He said he had the gun in his pocket when the School Resource Officer took him to the administrative offices.
He said he talked to the three administrators for about 10-15 minutes and no one asked him if he had a gun. He said he fired the gun in panic, and doesn't remember much about it. He said he was scared, and felt threatened, "I was trapped in the room with three grown men."
He said he was crying and felt shocked after the shooting, and he would do anything to take it back. He said he told a police officer, "I had ruined my life in just 10 seconds, and it would never have happened if I hadn't taken Xanax."
We will have a full wrap from the courtroom on 10News at 5 and 6 and continued updates on WBIR.com.