News - Sauk Valley

A statement from officer who prevented a tragedy

Retired Dixon High School resource officer Mark Dallas read his victim impact statement in court on Tuesday in the sentencing of Matthew Milby Jr., who received 30 years in prison for the foiled attempted school shooting in 2018

Former DHS school resource officer Mark Dallas leaves the stand after making a statement at the sentencing of Dixon High School shooter Matthew Milby.

Editor’s note: This is the victim impact statement former school resource officer Mark Dallas read at the sentencing of Dixon High School shooter Matthew Milby Jr. on Tuesday. Dallas, who stopped Milby from shooting any students on May 16, 2018, was the school’s resource officer all four years of the tenure of the Class of 2018, retiring from the force after “his kids” graduated.

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I have been asked to present a victim impact statement at this sentencing hearing. I am a victim of Matthew Milby. But no more so than you. I am no more of a victim of Matthew Milby than the entire nation is a victim of Matthew Milby. We are all victims of Milby.

Of Harris.

Of Klebold.

We are all victims of the school shooter at Newtown.

At Stoneman Douglas.

At Uvalde.

We are all victims of the seemingly endless militia of school shooters who infect our nation like cancer.

They are a disease that preys upon our nation’s chronic weakness of political division.

They kill innocent school children because our country still cannot muster the collective will to do anything about it.

Children will continue to be slaughtered until we care enough to save them.

Children will continue to be murdered until we place a well-trained school resource officer in every school.

Until then, we will all remain victims of Milby. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions. What separated Dixon High School from Stoneman Douglas High School?

What made the difference between the numbers in attendance at the elementary school graduation ceremony in Uvalde, Texas, and the numbers in attendance at the high school graduation ceremony in Dixon, Illinois?

Why did so many die there while so many lived here? The evil is precisely the same.

There was no less evil holding the gun in Dixon than there was holding the guns in bloody school massacres across the country.

The evil, murderous intent was precisely the same in each one of the schools, including ours just a few blocks away.

Matthew Milby has the same heart as Eric Harris.

Matthew Milby has the same indiscriminate trigger finger as Dylan Klebold.

He has the same deranged intentions as Adam Lanza.

There may be differences in their body counts. But there are no differences, whatsoever, in the levels of their dangerousness to our communities.

So was I the difference?

Was the difference between Uvalde and Dixon that Uvalde did not have Mark Dallas protecting its students and Dixon did?

I want to say something to you in the clearest possible way.

I want absolutely no doubt, no lack of clarity, about how strongly I believe what I am about to say: Mark Dallas is not the difference.

I, myself, am not the difference.

I sincerely become upset and embarrassed whenever the word “hero” is mentioned in the same sentence as my name.

I want you to know why. It isn’t necessarily humility.

When you call me a hero, or you say that it was I, personally, who made all the difference at Dixon High School, you make our nation’s persistent problem harder to solve.

If I, Mark Dallas, am the reason the kids at Dixon High School survived, then we can do very little to save the children in schools across the country. I am retired now. I was never that fast of a runner to begin with, and my running speed has only gotten slower over the past few years.

I am not the reason the kids at Dixon High School survived.

The students at Dixon High School survived because long before the shooting occurred, our community possessed the wisdom and collective will to do something about it.

Our police department had grown weary of the countless massacres unfolding throughout our country. So we developed a strong school resource officer program. And then, we trained. And we trained. And we trained.

For years before it happened, our entire local law enforcement community was training for May 16, 2018.

For years before he walked into Dixon High School with an Uzi, our entire local law enforcement community was getting ready for Matthew Milby.

We developed an incredibly strong school resource officer program. I received the unqualified support of my department and our local schools. We trained within our agency. We trained with other agencies. We trained with school officials and educators. We practiced live fire drills in the school so that teachers could hear and recognize what gunfire sounds like inside a school building. We used video surveillance systems. We checked and locked alternative entry points. We immersed ourselves in the schools and developed close and continuing bonds with the children we were there to protect. We did active shooter drills. Then we honestly criticized ourselves. Then we did them again. Then we honestly criticized ourselves some more. We practiced, and practiced, and practiced.

We hardened our targets.

This last sentence has become a little controversial. Critics say it is wrong to refer to our schools as “targets.”

I will agree with the critics that it is a terribly sad description. It is tragic. It is awful. It is true.
The innocent children within our schools are our most precious resource.
They are the targets of evil.

On May 16, 2018, 182 targets were gathered in the Dixon High School gymnasium to rehearse for their upcoming graduation ceremony. They are the sons and daughters of mothers and fathers who love them dearly. They were gathered to prepare for their commencement ceremony: a celebration of their entry into adulthood. My son was among them, but on that morning, he was just one of 182 of my sons and daughters.

Their parents had entrusted all of them to me. Today, those same parents entrust those same children to you.

It was a warm, sunny, late spring Wednesday morning.

The gymnasium was filled with excited high school seniors. Its outer doors were closed but not locked. Outside of those doors was a hallway. Across that hallway was an outside entrance to the school.

I was standing in the athletic director’s office. I do not remember what he and I were talking about, but I am sure it was probably an argument about sports.

Then, the gunshots.

I heard several gunshots in the hallway just outside the gymnasium. I ran from the athletic director’s office, toward the gun shots, as I was drawing my weapon.

There he was.

Milby was holding a fully loaded Uzi in one hand, and reaching out to open the door to the gymnasium with his other hand. I yelled something. I don’t remember what. I yelled and ran toward him. He turned and ran. I chased him. He ran outside of the school. I ran after him.

As I exited the school, he turned and shot at me. He was trying to kill me. I returned fire. I was trying to stop the threat. At some point in the exchange of gunfire, two of my bullets struck him.

We ran all the way to the band shell, and I lost sight of him. As a car was pulling into the school parking lot, I turned and looked and saw Milby, attempting to hide near the parking lot. I was able to take him into custody at gun point.

Dixon High School is located next to the Dixon National Guard armory. As I was pointing my gun at a wounded Milby and telling him not to move, two unarmed national guardsmen ran toward us to assist me. They were unarmed. They did not take the time to grab weapons. They just ran toward the sound of gunshots. Unarmed. Those who feel the need to use words like “hero” and “courage” in their descriptions of the events of that day should not forget to include those two brave members of our National Guard.

Courage is the only thing that will save our children from school shootings. I am not talking about the courage to run into a hail of bullets.

I am talking about the courage to admit we have a recurring problem and the guts to do something about it.

This is not a gun control speech. I have not said one thing about gun control today. Political debates on divisive topics bog us down and prevent us from finding solutions within our existing reality.

We must acknowledge the sad reality that our schools are targets. Our nation must follow the leadership of our local community. We must unconditionally support school resource officers. We must train, train and train some more. We must get our law enforcement and our schools ready to defend against Milby.

Milby is coming for our children whether we are ready for him or we are not. Your Honor, please impose the strongest sentence the law allows.

Use his sentence to send a message to the school shooters of our future that freedom will not await them if they survive.

Keep the children of this community, and all others, as safe from him as the law permits.

This is my victim impact statement, but I am no more of a victim of a school shooting than you.

Like you, I am also a survivor of a school shooting.

The victims of school shootings are lying in small child-sized coffins, their lives cut short by the very same evil that possessed Milby.

The victims of school shootings are the parents and grandparents and brothers and sisters who weep over their graves.

I am one of nearly 200 surviving victims of one attempted school shooting. Do not mourn for us. We are not dead. Mourn for those who died while we lived.

Mourn for those who died because we, as a nation, continue to ignore the differences between Dixon and Uvalde.