Vermont Public Radio has launched JOLTED, a five-part podcast about a school shooting that didn’t happen, the line between thought and crime, and a Republican governor in a rural state who changed his mind about gun laws.
In February of this year, Vermont law enforcement discovered an 18-year-old from Poultney had purchased a gun and documented his plans to commit a mass shooting at his former high school in the town of Fair Haven — bringing the threat of a school shooting close to home for Vermonters.
The case against this young man motivated Vermont’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, to make a stunning reversal on gun control policy, and it catapulted Vermont into a debate about the line between thought and crime.
Reporters Nina Keck and Liam Elder-Connors reviewed court documents and sat down with dozens of people, including the governor, the young man’s mother and stepfather, lawyers, law enforcement and others.
The first two episodes launched Sept. 6:
Part 1: The Shooting That Didn’t Happen
Jack Sawyer’s journal contained a startling confession. It landed him in jail, and sent shockwaves through the state of Vermont.
Part 2: How We Got Here
Who is Jack Sawyer, and why did he want to kill his former classmates?
The remaining episodes will launch on Sept. 13, Sept. 20 and Sept. 27.
“As a newsroom, we wanted to make sure that we didn't just treat this story as a daily turn and then moved on to another subject,” said VPR News Director Sarah Ashworth. “We felt this incident profoundly changed Vermont in a very short amount of time and we wanted to understand the how and why behind it. We talk a lot about wanting to provide listeners with context to what happens in Vermont and this podcast is a way for us to pull together a series of related events and try to help the state make sense of it.
“We wanted to slow down our coverage and look back at some of the critical days. We also wanted to talk with people who had never been asked to share their stories about the events of this past spring,” Ashworth said.
JOLTED is available at joltedpodcast.org. iPhone users can use the Apple Podcasts app to subscribe to the podcast feed, and Android users can subscribe via the Google Play Music app. The podcast is also available on non-native apps including Stitcher and NPR One.
Additionally, VPR will broadcast each episode in its entirety at 6 p.m. on Sept. 6, Sept. 7, Sept. 13, Sept. 20, and Sept. 27. The broadcast will be available on VPR News stations statewide and streaming at VPR.net.
Support for JOLTED comes from the VPR Innovation Fund, and from Primmer Piper Eggleston and Cramer, PC.