Victims had little in common

Freshman and senior were just in the wrong place at the wrong time

Associated Press

COLD SPRING, Minn. -- Aaron Rollins was a senior who enjoyed the outdoors. He was gregarious, athletic and often had a pleasant word for passing teachers or classmates. He worked at the local Subway sandwich shop.

Seth Bartell was a freshman who liked to skateboard and snowboard. He was quiet but a good kid, according to those who knew him.

About the only thing Rollins and Bartell had in common was that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time at Rocori High School on Wednesday.


Officials and teachers said there was no indication that they and John Jason McLaughlin, the 15-year-old suspected of shooting them, were any more than passing acquaintances.

Rollins was walking with other members of a senior physical education class on their way to the gym to play badminton. Bartell was with a freshman class already in the gym.

Rollins was shot in neck while in the locker room. He died a short time later.

Bartell was shot in the gymnasium. He was clinging to life at St. Cloud Hospital after several hours of surgery. Officials said he was shot in the head and chest. A bullet passed through the front of his brain.

Greg Roth, a senior, saw Rollins just before Rollins left for his gym class.

"I wish I'd known what would happen. I would've told him I love him or something," Roth said. "He's one of those guys who always had a smile on his face. If something was going wrong, he was the first guy who'd talk to you or ask you what he could do to help you."

"Aaron was a very outgoing kid; always had a smile on his face, always had a comment for you," said Brian Athman, who teaches health and phy-ed.

Rollins has a twin brother, Adam, Athman said. "Anywhere you saw one of them, you saw both of them," Athman said. They went to basketball camp. Baseball and football were big with them, but boating, hunting and fishing on Big Lake in Richmond were their passions.


"He always made something out to be funny," said Justin Hansen, 18, a senior who said he spoke with Rollins on Wednesday morning before the shooting.

"I just talked to him this morning about snowmobiling in Michigan," Hansen said. The trip had become tradition for Rollins and his group of friends. This winter's trip would have marked the third consecutive time the friends would head for Michigan's Upper Peninsula to snowmobile. Hansen said Rollins was so excited about the trip he was making plans for the group to go twice before their senior year ended.

Amanda Theel, 17, a senior, recalled taking a two-week trip with Rollins to the Boundary Waters area the summer after seventh grade. She remembered him looking after her and being protective on the trip.

"He taught me how to fish," Theel said. "He was a great guy."

Chris Butala, 17, said he and Rollins met with each other 30 minutes before the shooting.

"We were talking in the hallway, joking," Butala said. "I feel terrible right now. I can't even explain it; it's the worst feeling in the world. I just lost one of my best friends. I am never going to see him again."

Kati Brink taught both victims when they were eighth-graders.

Rollins, she said, "would be the one I could count on to get the soccer balls out for me. He was a helping hand, and he was always there."


Bartell, she said, was also a well-liked boy who had many friends. He was just more quiet, a little more reserved.

His friends said he had a passion for sports such as skateboarding at the skate park in town, snowboarding and BMX biking.

"He's basically good at every extreme sport. He's just built for it," freshman Jared Nordstrom said.

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