Some students wiped away tears and many wore ribbons in their high school colors as they quietly filed from a fleet of yellow school buses to attend the funeral Tuesday of their assistant principal who was gunned down in her office by a teenager she had suspended earlier that day.
Mourners overflowed the sanctuary, balcony and prayer chapel at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in west Omaha to remember 58-year-old Vicki Kaspar. The administrator was fatally wounded last Wednesday by 17-year-old Robert Butler Jr., who later killed himself with the same handgun.
Hundreds of students from Millard South High School talked in low voices as they filed into bleachers and metal chairs set up in the church gymnasium from where watched the service via video link. Many wore red, white and blue ribbons, which have been selling for $1 to raise money for the families of Kaspar and Principal Curtis Case, who was injured in the attack.
The school district canceled classes at the school Tuesday to allow staffers and students to mourn.
Sharing the pain
The Rev. Mike Swanton encouraged Kaspar's family to take comfort in the number of people sharing their pain.
"We don't have to suffer Vicki's death alone," Swanton said.
Her death was hard to accept, he said, because Kaspar did so much for others.
"We are encouraged to remember her as a wife, mother, administrator and friend, and then emulate her good qualities," Swanton said.
Mourners exchanged hugs with their neighbors at Swanton's urging. As the congregation sang "Amazing Grace," the priest adorned the casket with incense. Kaspar's three grown sons and other family members then walked the casket slowly from the church, and family and close friends left for a private burial. One son, Ron, is a chemistry teacher at Millard South.
Butler was suspended last Wednesday for driving on Millard South's football field and track. Omaha police say he returned to the school a few hours later, taking with him his police detective father's .40-caliber semiautomatic service weapon. Authorities say Butler gave no hint of his violent intentions before posting an ominous message on Facebook.
The boy shot Kaspar after a short conversation in her office, then Case as he came to investigate the commotion.
A hospital spokesman said Case remained in fair condition Tuesday at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha.
Butler also fired at a custodian and missed, causing debris to graze a school nurse. Butler fled in his car and killed himself in a parking lot about a mile away. He was buried in Lincoln on Saturday.
Butler had transferred to the Omaha school in the fall because he was having disciplinary problems in Lincoln and had not been listening to his mother, who remarried after divorcing Butler's father, Omaha police said.
Fifteen-year-old Van Nelson was among the hundreds of students who withstood the single-digit temperatures to attend the funeral service Tuesday. He told The Associated Press that he hadn't known Kaspar well but that he wanted to show support for his school.
Victoria Leigh, who attends another district high school, said she had known Kaspar because her father used to be principal at Millard South.
She said she took the death hard.
"I'm so sick of seeing horrible things happen to good people," Leigh said.