On the morning of April 27, 1966, in a social studies class at Bay Shore High School on Long Island, James Arthur Frampton had words with two Black students. There was an arrangement to fight after school at 3:00pm. 16 year old Frampton, who lived just minutes from the school, slipped out sometime after 2:00pm to go home to retrieve his Mossberg bolt-action 20 gauge shotgun, loaded it with three shells and prepared to commit murder.
(“His daydream consisted of getting a gun, a shotgun, machine gun, lining up nonwhites and shooting them down.” Dr. Diodato, Central Islip State Hospital Long Island, New York)
Frampton returned back to school to settle his grievances. He slowly scanned the halls of all three floors while looking into classrooms and yelling out the names of his two challengers. There was very little panic, and no protocol.
There was an announcement over the public address system from the assistant principal. He created a diversion by announcing that the buses were delayed and that all students remain in their homerooms. But most of the students, unaware of what was going on in the school, were already boarding the school buses to go home. Then another announcement ordered the students to get off the buses and return to their homerooms. Now there was confusion, panic and fear.
(“The defendant was found to be a social misfit whose feelings of hatred and inadequacy fester constantly and he is capable of erupting and killing anyone at the slightest provocation.” Raymond Silber, Suffolk County Probation Officer)
48 year old language teacher, John S. Lane, did not obey the announcement. He was a man, according to Court records, that was known to be authoritative and impulsive. He left his homeroom and in the hallway, as Frampton passed, Lane abruptly stated “Hey boy, what are you doing with that gun? Give it to me.” Frampton turned and fired one round of #6 pellets into Lane’s abdomen, he was propelled back against a hallway locker and lay wounded.
This incident was the first and only school shooting between a student and a teacher in Suffolk County and Frampton became the first child to be tried as an adult. He was sentenced to thirty years to life, but the sentence was commuted to life on parole.
(“He stated his chief ambition was to be number one man on the FBI most wanted criminal list.” Dr. Wilkins, Central Islip State Hospital)
Filmmaker and researcher Thomas Santorelli traces the life of James Frampton in this comprehensive never-before told story. From his roots in Kentucky, his move to Bay Shore, New York with his abusive and alcoholic parents, in a house with no hot water, heat, telephone and very little food. The Frampton home was located in a neighborhood known for alcohol and drug addiction, abject poverty and even incest.
Frampton’s family history is explored by interviews by the arresting officer, police at the scene, former Suffolk County District Attorney, assistant principal involved on that day in 1966. Suburban Tragedy is supported by trial minutes, sanity hearings, letters, crime scene photos, rare family photos, newspaper articles, archival film with reenactments produced by a special FX team.
This film is scheduled to finish production at the end of 2023.