By Jeffrey Collins
COLUMBIA, S.C. — With the suicide note he worked on for a week finished, 16-year-old Trevor Varinecz went looking for the one person he knew would have a gun at his South Carolina high school.
Varicnez walked into school police officer Marcus Rhodes' office and, after a brief exchange, plunged the bayonet from an old German rifle into Rhodes' back. The teen yelled "Just shoot me!" more than once as he stabbed the officer seven times, prosecutor Greg Hembree said Thursday.
The veteran officer tried to stop the October 16 attack by shooting the student in the leg three times, Hembree said. But when that didn't work, Rhodes killed the teen by firing two shots into his abdomen and chest.
Hembree cleared the Horry County officer of criminal charges Thursday, telling reporters that he did everything he could to protect himself and the school of nearly 2,000 students on Oct. 16 in Conway, about 10 miles from Myrtle Beach.
The prosecutor met with Varinecz's family before making the decision. They are still trying to figure out why the teen who suffered from Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, decided life was so hopeless.
Hembree reassured them that Varinecz didn't want to hurt anyone but himself that day.
"I don't even know if he really wanted to bring harm to the police officer. It wasn't his primary intention, but he'd do it if he had to," Hembree said.
Jeff Chandler, a lawyer for the Varinecz family, said Thursday he couldn't comment until he reviewed information he just received from investigators.
The teen set his plan into motion a week before the shooting when he opened a file on his computer called "my final words," Hembree said. The day he died, he carried a note in his pocket saying where to find the file.
Hembree wouldn't release the details of the note, calling it "heartbreaking." He said Varinecz saw his life as hopeless, a surprise to many of his family, friends and teachers.
Varinecz carried two knives in his backpack when he got to school that day, and insisted to his homeroom teacher that needed to talk to the school police officer, authorities said.
Once the teen got to Rhodes' office, he asked the officer to close the door. The officer first refused, but finally agreed after Varinecz demanded it repeatedly, investigators said.
Varinecz then told Rhodes there was a spider on the wall behind him, insisting several times that the officer look. When Rhodes turned his back, Varinecz attacked, Hembree said.
After the first three shots to the leg, Rhodes feared the teen might grab his gun and harm others, so he shot the student in his chest, authorities said.
It was the first time Rhodes could remember talking to Varinecz, Hembree said.
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Rhodes recovered from his stab wounds and returned to administrative duty a few weeks after the shooting. The officer loved his nine years of working at schools and was a tireless supporter of the Special Olympics, but it's not clear if he'll return. Horry County police didn't return a message Thursday asking whether Rhodes would go back to being a school police officer.