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A year after maiming in sword attack, reformed Capital Region school shooter returns with donations

A year after he was maimed in a sword attack, a reformed Capital Region school shooter returned to the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless in Albany today with donations.

Jon Romano and a friend carted packages of everyday essentials into the IPH building on Sheridan Avenue on the anniversary of the attack that critically injured his arms and legs. Romano says he’s lucky to be alive after his attacker struck him with a sword 34 times.

"In the past year, physically, I've recovered pretty well, my hands will never be the same," Romano said. "Obviously, they don't work much. But the fact that they were practically completely severed, and yet they move even a little bit, shows you how much I've come. The fact that I almost lost my leg from the knee down. My kneecap was completely split in half, and is now held together by a bunch of screws. The fact that I'm able to walk again, is amazing. I've even asked my doctors, how is this possible? And they're not even sure sometimes."

Romano, who is receiving mental health treatment, says he wanted the anniversary to be about something positive: helping others. His donations to IPH include socks, T-shirts and toiletries.

"If we can be able to support people and give them what they need, whether it's physical donations of clothing, toiletry, or whether it's that support of when somebody comes to you and says something's wrong, help them however you can," said Romano. "And too many times we hear about people who have reached out for help, and are basically turned away. When they tell people that they're struggling, whether it's teachers, students, themselves, they get ignored. And that's what we need to make sure to put an end to, we need to do all that we can to support one another. And it takes a lot of resources, but that's what's needed."

In 2004, Romano brought a shotgun to Columbia High School in East Greenbush, firing it at students and teachers, wounding one. 17 at the time, Romano was sentenced to 20 years at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. He began working at IPH after his release in 2020.

He says the need for mental health resources has never been greater.

“The school year hasn't even begun in the Capital Region, I don't think, but in other places in the country, we're already seeing school shootings in the first days of it," Romano said. "And sadly, the government and everybody out there who makes policies is ignoring the victims. So here I am, the perpetrator, the shooter, and I'm just trying to ask for more, we can't blame mental health alone. But that's surely something that we can be doing in our schools, kindergarten through 12th grade, we should be helping students learn to identify what's going on within them, and communicate with others. And we need to make sure that when others speak up, that they are hurting, that we can help them because we're not seeing that. And we haven't seen that, in the what, 25 years since Columbine.”

In April, Romano’s attacker, 42-year old Randell Mason of Albany, was sentenced to 25 years in prison and five years’ probation after release.

“It was upon me to forgive him. And I did it because forgiveness is not saying what he did is OK. Forgiveness is not saying that what he did wasn't horrible, or that he shouldn't be held accountable. Forgiveness is saying I'm letting go of that anger, and I'm able to push forward with my life,” said Romano.

Romano says he has been on an emotional rollercoaster as he focuses on his physical and mental recovery. He is not working at the shelter at this time.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.