DIXON — Dixon Police Chief Steve Howell, Jr. and Lee County Sheriff John Simonton praised school resource officer Mark Dallas who shot a gunman at Dixon High School Wednesday morning and possibly saved many lives.
Howell’s comments came at a press conference held late Wednesday morning regarding the shooting incident which occurred shortly after 8 a.m. at the school, where 19-year-old former student Matt Milby allegedly fired several shots from a gun near the west gym and was later shot and injured by Dallas before being taken into custody.
“I could not be more proud of the police officer and the way he responded to the situation,” Howell, Jr., said. “When shots rang out through the hallway of the school, he charged toward the suspect and confronted him head-on and because of this heroic action, countless lives were saved.”
Simonton echoed Howell on Dallas' actions, adding that “the school resource officer saved an enormous amount of lives today. It could have been a lot worse.”
At 8:06 a.m. the Dixon Police Department received a report from Dallas at the school of an armed male subject at the Dixon High School.
Howell said Milby fired several shots near the west gym. Dallas confronted Milby, who then exited the school and began running westbound on Armory Drive. Dallas pursued the subject, who reportedly then shot several rounds toward the school resource officer, at which time the Dallas returned fire and struck the suspect. Shortly thereafter Milby was taken into custody and transported for medical attention of non-life-threatening injuries.
Milby was charged late Wednesday afternoon in Lee County Court with three felonies, including aggravated discharge of a firearm, aggravated discharge at a school employee and aggravated discharge at a school building, each punishable by six to 30 years in prison. He was under 24-hour surveillance at a local hospital, but will be transported to jail and held on $2 million bond.
Howell, Jr., said Dallas, a 24-year law enforcement veteran, will be placed on paid administrative leave per policy. He has been with the Dixon Police Department for 15 years and served as a DHS officer for the past five years.
Dixon High School and all Dixon public schools were initially placed on lock down, as were many area schools for a time on Wednesday as events unfolded.
Howell, Jr., said he believes Milby acted alone and there were no injuries to any staff or students, and added authroities also believe there are no further threats to staff, students or the community.
“The students and staff responded to the situation extremely well,” Howell, Jr. “The district has been receiving training on how to respond to these situations. While removing students from the various classrooms, officers found that the staff and students had barricaded doors to the classroom with desks, bookcases and other objects per the training that they had received.”
Dusti Batcsh, a senior at Dixon High School, was in the gymnasium for graduation practice Wednesday morning when the incident took place outside the gym in the hallway.
“We were listening to the principal tell us about the practice and all of the sudden we heard what sounded like five or six fire crackers,” said Batsch. “One of the teachers went out and then came back in and told us to ‘Go, go get out of here.’”
Students initially fled to Sauk Valley Properties, then to the National Guard Armory before being bused to Page Park where parents could pick them up. The process took between two and two and half hours.
Batsch said he knows the alleged shooter only by name, but was not really acquainted with him.
“I feel the school handled the incident well, and I am grateful the Mr. McKay, Dr. Drady and Officer Dallas were there,” Batsch added. “We now have graduation practice tomorrow morning, but most of us aren’t looking forward to it.”