A home-schooled Willard boy allegedly shot his mother in the back with a stolen pistol Wednesday, triggering a massive manhunt that ended with the boy’s arrest about two hours later.
Michael Mason, 16, used a .22-caliber handgun to shoot his mother, Melissa Mason, once in the back, Willard police said.
The shooting happened inside the family’s home, 23 N. Main St.
The teen immediately fled, but he was arrested at about 1 p.m. when a slew of police and Huron County deputies surrounded his friend’s West Pearl Street home.
His mother, meanwhile, was flown by medical helicopter from the Willard hospital to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, where she was in stable condition later that evening, a hospital spokesperson said.
She was “alert and conscious” when paramedics took her to the hospital, Willard police Chief Mark Holden said.
Melissa called 911 at about 11:20 a.m. and told Huron County Sheriff’s dispatchers that her son just shot her. By the time officers showed up, Michael was gone.
Police immediately launched a manhunt, prompting a response from the Huron County and Norwalk SWAT teams, both of which were training nearby at the time.
Plymouth police and Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers also joined in the hunt, with the Highway Patrol lending a helicopter and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office providing a search plane.
“It was a massive response,” Holden said.
Just minutes after Melissa called 911, police notified Willard Schools superintendent David Danhoff about the shooting. Holden also sent officers to the schools.
At 11:45 a.m., Danhoff put the schools on lockdown. He also issued an automated “one-call” notification to parents, warning them that a shooter was on the loose in town, but students were safe.
“I wanted the parents to know (their children) were safe,” Danhoff said. “They were better off inside the school than running the streets.”
By that time, the small army of eager law enforcement officers had spread out all over town in hopes of finding Michael Mason, described as a 15-year-old white male wearing a black shirt, camouflage pants and carrying an orange backpack.
They focused their search on the west part of town, near the railroad tracks.
At some point, one of Michael’s friends told officers the boy was hiding out in a home in the 500 block of W. Pearl St. The army of police descended on the house and surrounded it.
“I saw movement in the window,” Holden said. “I motioned for them to come out.”
Michael and an adult male, later identified as David Miller, 56, emerged from the home. Officers quickly arrested Michael. The teen initially provided a false name, but a Willard Schools resource officer was on hand to positively identify him from past run-ins, Holden said.
Inside the boy’s backpack, police recovered a semi-automatic, .22-caliber pistol that contained a single, spent shell casing.
The homeowner, Miller, 56, is the father of Michael’s friend, police said.
Miller said he had absolutely no clue what was going on.
“All I know was he had a hard life at home,” Miller said. “He was talking about going out West, somewhere in Utah, I think.”
Last year, Michael was kicked out of school for threatening other students, Danhoff said.
He didn’t return to school, opting instead for homeschooling.
Danhoff remembered the teen as “quiet” and “laid back.” During the expulsion hearings, Michael showed remorse for his actions and tried to explain why he did what he did, Danhoff said.
“He said he was frustrated with his friends,” Danhoff said. “He said when he got frustrated he got angry, and said some things he really didn’t really mean.”
“Actually, he handled himself pretty well,” Danhoff said.
Wednesday afternoon, students in the Willlard High School parking lot said much of the same.
“He was always kind of quiet,” student Moses Lopez said. “He wrote poems to girls. I didn’t see the violence in him.”
The mother of Melissa’s live-in boyfriend, declining to provide her name, said she has watched Michael grow up over the years. As SWAT teams wrapped up the search, the woman lingered at 23 N. Main Street.
“Out of all the kids, I can’t believe it was Michael,” the woman said. “I don’t know why Michael would do something like this.”
She said the boy had been through a rough patch. He recently got busted stealing his mother’s car, which he planned to use to visit a girl he met online.
“He was always real quiet and shy,” the woman said. “He was such a good boy.”
Michael still hadn’t been charged with a crime late Wednesday. Police took him to the Seneca County Juvenile Detention Center for the night, although he’s scheduled to appear before a Huron County juvenile court judge at 11:30 a.m. today.