OLEAN, NY – Forty-five years ago on Dec. 30, 1974, Anthony Barbaro, a 17-year-old Olean High School student, shot and killed three people (one in a hallway and two from a third-floor window at the school) and wounded 11 others before he was captured. On the following day, Barbaro was arraigned and charged with three counts of second-degree murder, six counts of first-degree assault and five counts of first-degree reckless endangerment. He committed suicide on Nov. 1, 1975, in Cattaraugus County Jail.
On the 45th anniversary of this tragedy, here are five observations on the incident:
- Mass shootings were rare in the 1970s. The Olean High School shooting was the only school shooting in 1974 that caused multiple fatalities. By contrast, 45 school shootings took place in the first 46 weeks of 2019, according to a CNN report issued in November.
- In reporting the incident in 1974, several news organizations, including The New York Times, described Olean’s location as “upstate New York,” even though the city is in the far western part of the state near New York’s southern border.
- Olean and New York State police, as well as members of the National Guard, responded to the incident. Among the Olean police officers at the scene was William Aiello, who has served as the city’s mayor since 2014.
- Barbaro reportedly listened to the Elton John song “Ticking” during the shooting. “Ticking,” a track from John’s 1974 "Caribou" album, tells the story of a troubled young man who goes on a shooting spree that leaves 14 people dead in a Queens bar. In an article for Crime Traveller, William Sanford, an attorney and freelance writer, speculated about why Barbaro chose the song: “Did he play the song for motivation, to urge himself on? Or was he trying to convey to the world something about himself and his motivations?”
- Olean High School was not immune from threats of violence in 2019. At the start of the 2019-20 school year, threats to the school’s students were posted on social media. A 15-year boy was arrested and charged with two counts of making terroristic threats. Two months later, on Nov. 21, while law enforcement authorities searched the Greater Olean area for a teen Clarksville murder suspect, all Olean school buildings were placed on lockout, meaning that anyone entering the building needed to do so through one point of entry and be buzzed in. The suspect was apprehended later in the day.
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