Bennet Nominates Durango Student for Prestigious National Honor

Citizen Above Self Honors Presented by Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Washington, DC – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet has nominated a Durango student for the Citizen Above Self Honors, which is presented by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

The award is given annually by the society to three individuals nation-wide who have made a difference in the lives of others through a singular act of extraordinary heroism or through their continued commitment to putting others before themselves. The winners will be announced March 25, 2011.

Bennet nominated 13-year-old Kohler McInnis, who, despite a threat to his own safety, likely prevented a school shooting when he reported that a friend had brought a loaded gun to school. The Durango Police Department honored Kohler with the Durango Citizen Commendation Award.

In his nomination of Kohler, Bennet wrote, “Here in Colorado, where the wounds of the shooting at Columbine High School remain fresh in our memory, Kohler’s bold and selfless actions may well have saved his school, the Durango community and our state from another violent school tragedy. For this action, Kohler is undoubtedly a hero of the highest degree.”

The full text of Bennet’s nominating commendation follows:

On April 26, 2010, Kohler McInnis, a seventh grader at St. Columba School in Durango, Colorado, and two other students arrived early for school.  One of the students with Kohler seemed edgy and impatient. He called Kohler and the other student over to the far end of the playground, opened his backpack and showed them a .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun, loaded with the full clip.  He told the boys that he intended to shoot his way out of school and threatened to use it on them if they told.  The bell rang and the boys went to their classroom. 

Kohler knew he had to do something and do it fast.  He told his teacher he had a headache and needed to go to the main office for Tylenol.  Kohler felt the student watching him.  As Kohler ran to the main office building, he feared for his life, sure that the student would chase him and shoot him.  Despite the danger, he reported what the student had said to the school principal and appropriate action was taken. The tragedy that might have resulted from the student’s threats did not come to pass. 

Kohler had been good friends with the boy since second grade.  He had spent the night at Kohler’s house on numerous occasions and was always well behaved.  Beginning in seventh grade, however, the boy started acting out in class, yelling at teachers and staff, and he and Kohler grew apart. Kohler sensed that something was not right with him, but nobody suspected that he would bring a weapon to school. After the incident, Kohler was  afraid that because the boy knew where his family lived, the boy might steal another gun and come "get him." 

Initially, even though many people deemed Kohler a "hero" and tried to make him feel good about what he had done, he had a hard time coming to terms with something so horrible.  Nevertheless, Kohler knows that by sharing his story other kids will feel empowered to inform an adult when they become aware of dangerous situations.  

Although he is only 13, Kohler has a strong sense of fairness and is willing to stand up for what is right.  At the risk of his own life, he knew he had to inform school officials about a possible shooting and do his best to protect his classmates and teachers. He received the Durango Citizen Commendation Award from the Durango Police Department in 2011 for his act of bravery and community service.  Sgt. Taylor of the Durango Police Department said, “Kohler’s actions likely saved lives or at least prevented a fellow student from ruining his life beyond repair.” 

Here in Colorado, where the wounds of the shooting at Columbine High School remain fresh in our memory, Kohler’s bold and selfless actions may well have saved his school, the Durango community and our state from another violent school tragedy. For this action, Kohler is undoubtedly a hero of the highest degree.