Cops: Dalton teacher who fired shot in classroom once tried to confess to murder

Randal Davidson

Randal Davidson

A North Georgia social studies teacher, who is facing charges after he fired at least one shot inside a classroom Wednesday, once tried to confess to having someone killed, police said.

The alleged confession was one of two previous incidents involving Randal Davidson, known as the longtime “radio voice” of Dalton High School football and basketball, and local police.

Dalton police could not verify any of the information Davidson said on March 21, 2016, about having two friends kill someone on his behalf. Police ultimately took him to Hamilton Medical Center because he was having suicidal thoughts, according to a police report. The school was made aware of the incident, police said.

Then, in January 2017, Davidson disappeared from the high school campus after saying he didn’t feel well and leaving early. He was found hours later sitting on a curb about a mile away, unable or unwilling to respond to police, according to the report. He was again taken to the hospital and no further action was taken by officers.

Wednesday’s incident at Dalton High, about 91 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta, sent panicked students running through hallways and unnerved parents who were already on edge in the wake of a mass shooting at a Florida high school earlier this month.

About 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, some students tried to get into Davidson’s classroom and he would not let them in, Dalton police spokesman Bruce Frazier said.

They alerted Principal Steve Bartoo. When he came to the door and used his key to try to open it, Davidson forcibly closed it on him, Frazier said.

At that point, Bartoo heard one gunshot. The bullet went through a window and outside, Frazier said.

Police said Davidson, 53, used a snub-nosed .38 revolver. Although guns are not allowed on the campus, Frazier said Davidson brought the gun into class in his computer case Wednesday morning.

The school has an assigned school resource officer, but at the time of the shooting he was at the junior high school meeting with that school’s officer, according to Dalton police Assistant Chief Cliff Cason.

Frazier said his officers responded within a matter of minutes.

"We had officers inside the building quickly,” he said.

Officers evacuated a hallway and secured the area first. During the evacuation, a female student was hurt, police said. That student was being treated for an ankle injury.

After about 30 to 45 minutes, authorities were able to get Davidson to surrender.

He has been charged with aggravated assault, carrying a weapon on school grounds, terroristic threats, reckless conduct, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and disrupting a public school, Frazier said.

Classes were canceled Thursday but students will be able to return to the campus after 10 a.m. to pick up cars and personal items left in the building, according to the district.

Counselors and social workers will be on hand. Students should enter the building through the front entrance.

Classes are scheduled to resume Friday, and police plan to be on campus, the school said.

Davidson has been at Dalton High since 2004. In 2012, he was recognized as the school’s top teacher, according to Dalton Public Schools.

“He’s a good teacher,” Bartoo said.

Davidson moved to Dalton in 1995 and became sports and news director at WBLJ-AM radio, the district said.

The shooting occurred two weeks after 17 students and faculty members were killed inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Students returned to the school for the first time Wednesday.

During a listening session last week with parents and survivors of the rampage, President Donald Trump said if one of the victims, a football coach, had been armed “he would have shot and that would have been the end of it.”

He followed that up with a tweet that suggested “armed educators (and trusted people who work within a school) ... should get yearly” bonuses.

“Shootings will not happen again,” he wrote in the Twitter post. “A big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.”

In August, Lithia Springs High School closed after a teacher shot himself in his classroom office before students arrived. Jonathan Freeman, 43, fired one round from his own, recently acquired, handgun. He survived the shooting.

In other news:

A pedestrian was hit on Highway 78 eastbound between Interstate 285 and Brockett Road just before 6 a.m. Tuesday.