DIXON – Matthew Milby Jr. was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in prison for bringing an Uzi to graduation practice and shooting at a teacher and the Dixon High school resource officer on May 16, 2018.
Milby, who pleaded guilty July 14 to two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm, was sentenced to 30 years on each count, terms to be served concurrently.
“I can’t undo what I did, but I can take responsibility for my actions and apologize,” Milby told Judge John C. Redington, after listening to several victim impact accounts, including one from then-school resource officer Mark Dallas and teacher Andrew McKay, whom he shot at.
“I hope that this statement brings some peace to those who were affected by my actions.”
The 23-year-old must serve at least 25 years, six months before being eligible for parole.
He also was given credit for 1,601 days served in Lee County jail since his arrest that day nearly four and a half years ago.
That will make him at least 45 years old when he is freed.
State’s Attorney Charley Boonstra was aiming for something closer to release at age 70.
He asked Redington for 30 years on each count, terms to run consecutively, which would be “commensurate with the horrors” Milby brought down on his classmates, high school staff, first responders and the community.
Milby’s attorney, Eric Arnquist of Rochelle, asked for 10 years, citing his client’s lack of criminal history, his “nightmare” of a childhood, which relatives testified was rife with domestic abuse, and his mental health issues.
Milby was found not fit to stand trial three times since his arrest, for refusing to eat properly and take his medication while in jail, most recently at a hearing in May 2021.
That door “swings both ways,” Boonstra said, noting that Milby’s mental health did not become an issue until a year into his incarceration.
Nonetheless, “that is what makes this defendant so dangerous” – he still will be a threat when he is released, he said.
“He was willing to take a life,” Boonstra said, adding that Milby’s presentence report noted that he had told had told investigators “his plan was to become a career criminal.”
Milby’s choices were his own, he can’t blame his parents, Boonstra said.
“This case is not about about fitness. ... It’s about Matthew Milby taking a gun to school and shooting it.”
A 60-year sentence would serve as a deterrent to anyone else who planned to survive such a shooting, and also would help the community heal, he said.
“We are asking the court for a sentence that shows the community that their screams on May 16, 2018, are being heard.”
Also Tuesday, several people read or had read for them victim impact statements, including Dallas, his wife, Jennifer, McKay, his wife, Cassie, their 10-year-old daughter, Jared Shaner, DHS principal who was the athletic director at the time, talking with Dallas in his office near the gym when Milby arrived, and former students Derek Humphrey and Madison Wolfley.
“I am a victim of Matthew Milby,” Dallas’ statement began. “But no more so than you. ... We are all victims of the seemingly endless militia of school shooters who infect our nation like cancer.”
McKay talked about his “increased situational awareness,” and the enduring trauma he, his wife and child still deal with.
Then he told Milby he forgave him.
“Something I’ve struggled with since it happened, but I once heard a preacher say, you can hate the sin, but you gotta love the sinner ... I forgive you as a person; I don’t hold any grudges ...
“I’m not excusing the decisions that lead to your actions that day, I think you need to be held accountable for whatever the judge decides today, but at the end of that, my prayer for you will be that whatever sentence ... that you serve, during that, you will find whatever peace, whatever it is you need, so that when you are released you can rejoin society and be a positive and public member of whatever community you choose to live in.”
After the sentencing, Dixon School Superintendent Margo Empen also released at statement that read in part:
“It is my hope, the hope of the Board of Education, that today’s sentencing allows each of our students, staff, and graduates to begin to heal, or continue to heal, and move on from this event.”
Milby could have been sentenced to 10 to 45 years for shooting at Dallas, and six to 30 years for shooting at gym teacher McKay, whom he encountered in a hallway on his way to the gym.
He fled seconds later when confronted and pursued by Dallas. Then Dallas returned fire, hitting Milby in the upper shoulder and hip. He was arrested near his car in Page Park. No one else was injured.
At the May 12, 2021, discharge hearing, Milby was ordered into mental health treatment with the Illinois Department of Human Services for up to two years.
He also was acquitted of two felony charges of aggravated discharge of a firearm. He was found not guilty of the other four: two counts of attempted murder for shooting at Dallas and McKay; and two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm.
His fitness was deemed restored on Oct. 26, giving Boonstra the go-ahead to proceed with prosecution.