DAVID GREENE, HOST:
When President Trump travels to Dayton, Ohio, this morning, he's likely to hear from residents who are still wondering how this could have happened. Many are asking whether school officials and police could have done more to prevent the tragedy.
Here's NPR's Joel Rose.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Years before he opened fire on a crowded street in Dayton on Sunday, Connor Betts was already well-known in the quiet wooded suburb of Bellbrook. Daniel Mendez was on the school bus the day in 2012 when a uniformed police officer got on board and asked for Betts.
DANIEL MENDEZ: The officer walked on, called for him by name. He didn't fight, just walked up and went with the officer.
ROSE: Word soon got around that Betts was suspended from school for drawing up lists of students he wanted to kill and rape. The story made the local paper when hundreds of students stayed home because they were afraid of him. Daniel Mendez says Betts had been obsessed with violent music and videos.
MENDEZ: I knew just aesthetic things that he was into a lot of times had to do with death and violence. He just seemed to really enjoy those sort of things.
ROSE: Seven years later, Betts killed nine people during a shooting rampage in downtown Dayton before the 24-year-old was shot and killed by police. And the community is asking questions about red flags in his past. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine pointed to those red flags yesterday in proposing new legislation on guns and mental health.
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MIKE DEWINE: The assailant, while in high school, clearly exhibited anti-social behaviors that should have alerted anyone who knew about them that there was a problem, a serious problem, with this high school student.
ROSE: Betts was allowed back into school, but it's not clear why. The police with jurisdiction over Betts' high school aren't answering questions. School officials aren't talking either - not the superintendent, nor the school board president, who declined to comment on the advice of a lawyer. Former students say the adults back then should have taken the threat more seriously.
SHAY STOUT: We all - you know, we're not surprised. Like, whenever we found out that it was him, it was just terrible because it seemed like it just could have been prevented.
ROBERT LJUNGREN: To allow him to be back around those same students that he had the intention to harm, I think it's foolish.
BRYCE HENRY: It's not like we even, like, thought this guy might be messed up. Like, we kind of knew he was, but just nothing was ever done.
ROSE: That's Shay Stout, Robert Ljungren and Bryce Henry. They all attended Bellbrook High School with Betts. Education experts see similarities to another recent mass shooting.
MAX EDEN: There are pretty striking parallels between what we're starting to see emerge in Dayton and what we saw in Parkland.
ROSE: Max Eden is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He says there were lots of missed warning signs in the troubled life of Nikolas Cruz, who confessed to last year's shooting in Parkland, Fla.
EDEN: In both cases, students came forward immediately after the shooting to say that we weren't surprised by this. Everybody knew that he could do it because in both cases, the student had said that he would.
ROSE: In Dayton, some parents, like Robyn Laird, defended school officials and police. Laird says teenagers make mistakes.
ROBYN LAIRD: I think not until you're in their shoes can you judge them because you don't know what was going on or why they said that then, if they were trying to get attention.
ROSE: Other parents, like Kacey Cox, whose children attend Bellbrook High, believe the school could have done more.
KACEY COX: Sometimes they are a little lax - lackadaisical about how to handle situations. But I hope, moving forward, they have a better plan because my kids go to school here, and so I'm just so nervous about everything now.
ROSE: Students here head back to school next week. And the investigation into the mass shooting continues. Yesterday, the FBI said it's looking into Betts' interest in, quote, "violent ideologies."
Joel Rose, NPR News, Dayton, Ohio.
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