ROCKDALE COUNTY, Ga. - The man who opened fire inside a local high school in 1999 and injured six people has been released from prison, three years earlier than his original sentence.
TJ Solomon was 15 years old when he used a .22 rifle to open fire inside the school’s commons area just a month after the deadly Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
A judge sentenced Solomon to 20 years in 2000 but he is being released early on parole.
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles says that Solomon has shown signs of rehabilitation during his imprisonment. He will not be able to visit any Georgia schools as part of a condition of his parole. Solomon will also not be allowed to have any contact with any of his victims.
Channel 2’s Steve Gehlbach spoke to the former assistant principal. Cecil Brinkley had a handgun pointed at him, but convinced Solomon not to shoot him, hurt himself, or anyone else.
“Telling him each time to, ‘give me the gun, give me the gun’ and I finally got close enough to him, he did lower the barrel down and I took the gun from him,” Brinkley said. “I was holding the gun there and he did say in essence 'I'm scared.'"
Richard Read is the Rockdale County District Attorney who helped put Solomon in prison. He says he has concerns about Solomon's early release.
"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior," he told Channel 2's Matt Johnson. "Well, part of his past behavior is walking into a high school setting and shooting six kids."
He had asked the judge for a 60-year sentence and feels that Solomon should serve the full sentence that was decided by the court.
A former classmate of Solomon who was just a few yards from him when he opened fire spoke out Monday.
"I looked around and saw people just hitting the floor, so I did the same thing. We were just waiting for it to end, which took what seemed like forever,” Ashley Stephenson said.
Stephenson said she is disgusted by Solomon’s early release from custody.
Georgia Department of Community Supervision Official James Hill told Channel 2’s Mark Winne Solomon did 17 years of his 20 year prison sentence stemming from the shots he fired that day, which wounded six.
“Once the parole case expires, once he's reached the maximum amount of time he was to serve in prison, he'll go into the probation phase of his case. The probation phase of his case will last until May of 2064,” Hill said.
Hill says a visit a DCS officer paid to Solomon's mom and stepdad's house within hours of his release was one of countless that will happen now that Solomon is a free man.
“When you heard TJ Solomon walked out of prison, what happens in your heart?” Winne asked.
“Joy and sadness mixed together. I mean obviously what happened in 1999 at Heritage High School impacted so many and destroyed so much for many,” Jana Harris said.
Harris was a key member of his legal team back in the day.
“He knew that he had committed a very bad act and wanted to take responsibility from the beginning,” Harris said.
Hill says Solomon will face a number of special conditions, including the following.
“Voice recognition monitoring. There will be a landline setup in his residence of record. He will be placed on a curfew. He will call in to a company, and the company will also call him,” Hill said.
“What got his family, TJ, even you through all this? They have a strong faith. They love him very much,” Harris said.
The day of the shooting, an assistant principal stood in front of TJ Solomon and calmly convinced him to stop shooting, and put down the gun.
Brinkley told us he thinks TJ Solomon is no threat to society and should be allowed to live out his life in peace.
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