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Hero or villain? Hainstock's crime generates buzz online
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Eric Hainstock's role in the death of his high school principal in September 2006 quickly became a topic of online discussion, especially as word spread of the abuse and bullying he reportedly suffered at home and at school.

Among the most extensive and interesting conversations took place on IndyBay, beginning in October 2006 with an incendiary post entitled "Free Eric Hainstock!"

Here's part of it:

Why should we support him? Because in his own way, Eric had the courage to fight back against a school system that psychologically molests us every day, deprives us of autonomy and freedom, runs our spirits through a conveyor belt of discipline and coercion to spit out obedient workers and slaves. Eric followed his heart's fiery anger and struck back with the desperation of a caged animal, against the system that confined him and dominated his life. Unlike many other school shooters, Eric directed his gunfire up the hierarchy at a figure of authority, at someone who was directly responsible for the oppression of youth. He may not have destroyed the school system by assassinating a single principal, but his gunshots certainly have shaken the system. Let them reverberate in our hearts.

This distasteful screed generated an outpouring of response, much of it from Weston Schools students who knew Hainstock. Some are sympathetic: "Eric Hainstock is a great person. I've known him practically my hole life." Others are not: "Eric Hainstock deserves to rot in the prison cell the jurors send him to."

But most of the posters find middle ground: "None of us think it was right to kill; we just think that he should be charged as a minor and not as an adult." It's an often-enlightening discussion, in which those who condemn Hainstock are urged by peers to take a more compassionate view, and those who defend him are challenged to remember the devastation he caused.

A blog called Freedom Eden also contains some interesting posts, reacting to Hainstock's crime and his punishment. The first discussion is focused on the question of whether Hainstock was a victim, which includes asking whether there were others who are to some extent responsible for what occurred:

"Why is it that so many people watched and seen the abuse and no one stepped up to help?

"...Where were the police and the judges when his father physically and mentally abused him and was still allowed to live with him? Where were the teachers and principal when Eric was being bullied and called a fag? Where are the parents now of the kids who bullied Eric and called him names they would not want to be called themselves? Where were the church members and faculty [who saw] the physical abuse spread all over Eric's body? Where was Eric's Mother?"

Another exchange that captures some of the broad spectrum of reaction to Hainstock can be found on lolife.com. The lead post is headlined "Little Pussy Retards like Eric Hainstock." It declares that Hainstrock decided to murder his principal in cold blood because he was mad about being disciplined over throwing a stapler at a teacher.

Among the responses it generated was one from a student named Michael: "I know Eric Hainstock personally. I am not making excuses for what he did, but he is [a] disturbed young man. Everyone has failed him. Even though people tried to help him, the ones he wanted the most help from ignored him. Eric needs prayers. As does the Klang family."

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