In Harrisburg, S.D., southeast of Sioux Falls, two years ago, high school student Mason Buhl, then 16, walked into the principal’s office and shot Kevin Lein.
In the 23 months that Buhl has been sitting in jail awaiting trial, Lein has been one of the boy’s biggest advocates.
“That seems like a crime in itself that he’s just had to sit for so long without any real result,” Lein tells the Sioux Falls Argus Leader today.
Since the day he was shot, Lein has said he regrets he didn’t have more interaction with Buhl before he picked up a gun and gave up hope.
“I don’t even think, for him, it was necessarily me he was attacking,” Lein said. “He was attacking the fact that he wasn’t getting help.”
The now former principal has focused attention on the fact a young man with mental illness wasn’t getting the help he needed, the Argus Leader says.
“I don’t know what’s going on with mental health in our country,” he said. “There’s a young man, again, who just sits and obviously has some difficulties he needed to overcome, and who was helping him?”
Lein knows there are people in the community who see the answer as more black and white. Buhl shot Lein. He deserves to be punished.
“I’m not that way … I don’t believe in evil,” Lein said. “I believe in the good of everybody, and maybe I saw (evil) that day, but I think it was imprinted on him. I don’t think he’s an evil person.”
Lein is glad to see some closure in Buhl’s case for the sake of both Buhl and the Harrisburg community, who have had a certain level of anxiety as the case went unresolved.
He plans to visit Buhl after his sentencing. He wants to find out if there’s anything he can do to help Buhl to “get a good future.”
On Wednesday, Buhl pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was committed to a mental health treatment facility.
He had 50 bullets when he walked into Lein’s office. After shooting the principal, his gun jammed, and he was tackled by two administrators.
“I intend to show with my actions that I wish that never happened, that I’m not my mistakes,” Buhl told the court on Wednesday.