A burning car and bolt-action rifle: alleged Dalton shooter had a past

The Dalton teacher accused of firing a handgun in his classroom this week had previously been hospitalized three times after authorities responded to calls about worrisome behavior.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has already reported two of those prior incidents, both of which occurred in Dalton where Jesse Randal Davidson taught social studies at the local high school. But On Friday, another law enforcement agency in a different county revealed a third incident involving a firearm and a burning car, an event that was so bizarre it led authorities to take Davidson’s rifles “for safe keeping.”

No one was harmed Wednesday when the handgun went off at Dalton High School, except for an ankle injury when students were rushing out the doors. Davidson reportedly had barricaded himself in his classroom and fired through a window. He faces six charges, including aggravated assault, terroristic threats and acts, and possessing a weapon on school property. His lawyer hasn’t returned a call for comment.

School officials said they couldn’t discuss his medical history, but said they followed state regulations to ensure he was approved to be in school.

The recently revealed incident occurred Aug. 13, 2016, at Davidson’s home. He’d called the local authorities to say he’d set his car on fire. The dispatcher told the responding deputy that it “could be a suicide due to hearing the caller sound unstable,” according to the incident report by the Dade County Sheriff’s Office.

Davidson’s 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander was engulfed in flames when a deputy arrived. He escorted the teacher’s daughter and wife off the property, and returned after Davidson’s son had coaxed a Russian bolt-action rifle from his father’s hands.

The teacher’s wife said she and her husband had argued about money that morning and that he’d texted her later to say he was going to prison. She gave the deputies two more of her husband’s rifles, a .22-caliber Ithaca and a Savage 7mm Magnum, and they took the teacher to a hospital “for mental evaluation.”

Five months before that, in March 2016, police in Dalton had taken Davidson to a hospital after he tried to confess to a killing. They could confirm neither the details of his story nor the existence of the alleged victim, and concluded that he may have been “delusional,” the incident report says. It notes that he said he was on anti-depressants and was “thinking about harming himself.” Then, in January 2017, Dalton told a supervisor he felt ill and left the school. Police were called because he had disappeared by the time his son arrived to give him a ride, the Dalton police report said. He was found at a nearby intersection, unable or unwilling to talk, and was taken to a hospital.

The sheriff’s report about the burning car revealed that Davidson’s family was worried about his behavior: His son said he wasn’t acting like himself, the report said, and his daughter “could tell something was wrong with her dad.”