Users are criticizing Jon Romano, a school shooter who became well-known for talking about his acts on TikTok, saying he shouldn’t be permitted to remain on the platform. Romano, who received a 20-year jail sentence for carrying a shotgun to Columbia High School in 2004 and served 17 of those years, has developed a sizable TikTok following under the username @jonseekingpeace.
While nobody was killed in the incident, which involved the 16-year-old Romano shooting a teacher in the leg, the victims’ trauma was severe. Romano entered a guilty plea to reckless endangerment and attempted murder. He had left a note at home about the 1999 Columbine school massacre before the tragedy.
In a TikTok video that received over 5,800 likes, Romano admitted that his actions had a long-lasting effect on the victims’ mental health. He declared that he is now dedicated to interacting with individuals, responding to inquiries, and promoting mental health awareness.
Romano’s appearance on TikTok, however, has drawn criticism from a number of people who feel he should not be able to profit off the narrative of his crimes and that he is clearly trying to attract attention. The user @blackqueerliberation questioned his sincerity in raising awareness about mental health and chastised him for creating a platform based on the damage he inflicted.
A video that Romano shared about surviving an attack in 2022 sparked concerns because it portrayed the attacker—a Black man—as anti-White. Romano’s detractors contend that he is promoting a false narrative and that bragging about one’s own development has no place in his salvation story.
Talks concerning the possibility of radicalization were also spurred by the scandal, especially with regard to young males who might be affected by Romano’s films. Users of TikTok voiced concern and chastised the app for enabling the rise in popularity of a school shooter.
Romano defended his TikTok participation in the face of criticism, saying that he feels like he’s part of the solution now that he’s been part of the problem. Some people recommended that instead of using a public forum, Romano should speak in private with counselors and psychologists.
The incident serves as a reminder of the difficulties platforms have in controlling the presence of people with contentious backgrounds and the possible effects on users—particularly those who might be at risk of radicalization or discomfort from such content.