In 2004, then-16-year-old Jon Romano walked into his school with a shotgun and shot a teacher who survived. He was stopped by another teacher who restrained him.
After serving a sentence of 15 years, he left prison and advocated for mental health awareness and tried to make amends by giving back to the community and working in a homeless shelter.
On 29 August 2022, he was attacked with a sword by a homeless man at the shelter.
He has shared his experience in the video above, which was originally shared on his Tiktok account here:
Jon Romano, convicted in ’04 shooting, was victim in sword attack
Romano, who suffered ‘substantial’ blood loss in Monday’s assault, has sought to help law enforcement by sharing his mental struggles during 2004 shooting incident
ALBANY — Jon W. Romano, who has sought redemption for firing a shotgun at students and teachers inside Columbia High School as a teenager in 2004, was the victim in Monday’s vicious attack at a homeless center on Sheridan Avenue in which a man wielding a sword attacked Romano and caused critical injuries to his arms and leg, according to police and court records as well as law enforcement sources.
Romano, 34, remained in critical condition Tuesday at Albany Medical Center Hospital after undergoing surgery in the hours after the attack. A police report indicates Romano’s injuries resulted in a “substantial amount of blood loss” and that responding police officers needed to apply tourniquets above his wounds to stem further bleeding.
The suspect, 42-year-old Randell D. Mason of Albany, was charged with attempted second-degree murder. He was arraigned in Albany City Court on Tuesday morning and sent to Albany County jail without bail. A prosecutor told the judge that Romano remained intubated and that doctors had “reattached” his arms and lower leg but remained concerned about the condition of his leg. He also was struck in the head, according to a police report.
Kristen Giroux, deputy director of Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, which operates the Sheridan Avenue shelter — called the Community Connections Drop-In Center — told the Times Union on Monday the organization was “bringing in a trauma response team to support our staff and the other guests who were witnesses to this horrific event.”
“It did start with an argument and ended with (Mason) attacking our employee,” Giroux had said. Romano “works throughout the building, manages our clothing pantry and also helps out wherever he’s needed.”
She said the suspect had “used our center previously” and was known to the staff.
According to police reports, Mason allegedly stated, “Yep, I chopped him up — he was disrespecting me.” The report says Mason made that statement “multiple times” while in police custody. Another report, which indicates there is also police body-cam footage, said Mason remarked, “He’s down there all chopped up, said I was racist.”
William Hartl, a former employee of Community Connections said that Romano had worked in the clothing pantry there and was open about his struggles with mental health and had devoted himself to raising awareness on the issues that led to his troubles as a teenager. He said “Romano worked a position in an organization that provides a relatively overlooked service, ensuring that a demographic who has been largely abandoned by the rest of society has the resources they need.”
Hartl said that he left his job at the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless last year to attend graduate school but returned to visit staff who informed him that Romano had embraced his work for the center and was flourishing in the position.
“You’re dealing with many people who have severe mental health problems with very little resources,” Hartl said. “The staff at IPH show up everyday, potentially putting themselves in danger because they care about the community, most of whom are thankful for the services. John paid a very high price for helping those that have fallen through the cracks and deserves to be viewed as a hero for his sacrifice.”
He added that the guests who come there for services also “are just like everyone else, they have their own struggles to face. Even his attacker needs empathy and compassion because to experience homelessness and poverty … it’s an incredibly difficult and damaging way to live.”
Earlier this year, Romano spoke to law enforcement officials during an event at the Saratoga Casino and Hotel, where he told the audience about the importance of looking out for signs that students are in trouble.
“If we can have them opening up and getting rid of any toxicity that might be building up in them, then hopefully nobody will even come close to doing anything that I have done,” Romano had said, according to a report by NewsChannel 13.
The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office hosted the three-day conference on school safety, where Romano was a featured speaker.
He was released in late 2020 after spending more than 15 years in prison for attempted murder and other charges connected to the February 2004 shooting at the suburban high school in East Greenbush.
In 2018, Romano wrote a letter to the Times Union in response to a column by Chris Churchill which featured an interview with retired Columbia principal John Sawchuk, who had tackled and disarmed the 16-year-old after Romano had fired the pump-action shotgun twice, missing students but wounding a teacher.
“John Sawchuk is a hero who I owe my life to,” Romano wrote in the letter he sent from Coxsackie Correctional Facility in Greene County. “I know whenever another horrible shooting happens, he and all of my victims are hurt all over again from what I did to them. I want to take away their pain but knowing that I cannot, I want to prevent others from experiencing this pain.”
Romano, who was sentenced to a 17- to 20-year prison term, moved to Albany County after his release.
A parole panel noted that Romano had a low chance of returning to prison and a “positive relationship” with his family.
There was no information disclosed during Tuesday’s arraignment in City Court that indicated Mason suffers any mental health disorders. But Giroux, the deputy director of the Interfaith Center, had said, “We, locally and beyond, have a real mental health crisis that we need to deal with. As an agency it’s been our mission to support people who have been turned away by many other programs and agencies who have no place else to go, and that’s what this center is all about.”
The shelter has been open at that location since 2019, but Interfaith’s drop-in center program has been active for 16 years. The center, which broke ground in 2017 as a $5 million project, also provides apartments for formerly homeless individuals. The center provides food, access to showers and laundry facilities, and other services.