Grief counselors on duty at Pre-K school - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Grief counselors on duty at Pre-K school

September 22, 2004

Albany-- Investigators say Albany Police Corporal Andrew Hayslip shot his son Austin in the chest, not in the back, as he tried to get away as witnesses first said.

Today, counselors helped Austin's classmates deal with yesterday's frightening shooting. Co-workers of the little boy's wounded mother prayed for her. And prosecutors defended their decision not to take Hayslip to court after a domestic violence arrest last year.

A dozen elementary school counselors helped 4-year old Austin Hayslip's classmates cope with the tragedy that occurred at the pre-kindergarten program Tuesday.

About 5:00PM, we had just learned that Austin Hayslip died from his father's police gun. After the young victim fell to the ground, his father committed suicide. All this happened at the Exceptional Student Program Building.

Under a peaceful sky, buses arrive to the Exceptional Student Program Building and park right past, crime scene tape. “ Oh my GOD,” exclaimed Parent Anthony Bellows. “And they let the students go back to school here?”

Some parents just learning what happened the day before. Four-year-old Austin Hayslip was shot at school by his police officer father, who then killed himself. The little boy also didn't make it. “ He was full of life,” said the mother's boyfriend Stanley Roberts. “I mean he was loved by everybody, full of life.”

Roberts is dating the boy's mother. “She's not doing too good, I mean to lose a child.”

Today, parents are holding their children tighter. “She asked if she had to go to extended day, she was scared that somebody was going to die, that's exactly what she said,” said Parent Toneka Cooper.

“The kids vary from classroom to classroom,” said Counselor Stacey Kilias. To help the students cope, the counselors first had them draw what they knew about the shooting. One drawing shows the school, Austin on the ground, the young victim, and then the police officer. After that, they had the students draw where they felt safe.

This particular student drew a desk, a student and a teacher. It says 'I feel safe at school.'

“We wanted to finish on this was a bad thing that happened and now we can feel safe,” Kilias said.

“I feel all right that I have to go to school everyday,” said 4-year-old Kayla Chatmon. “It must be okay, but I'm going to go and figure out what's going on, I'm going to ask some questions,” Bellows said.

Counselors are worried about what children think about police officers. That was discussed today and most kids said police officers are here to protect them.

Counselors advise to only answer what the child has asked, don't give out too much information. And it's also okay to use the words death, dying or died, you want to be honest, but don't confuse the child.

Counselors also say it's important to keep the children on their normal routine.

Members of Andrew Hayslip's family defended him today, even after the murder suicide at the school.

A cousin told us the family cannot understand how Hayslip could have turned so violent. A nephew said Hayslip was a father figure to him, and he can't believe what Police say happened.

"It's like you just want to wake up and say OK, this was just a dream," said Cousin Marion Harris. "I can not believe this has happened."

Do you think he was a violent person? "I've never known that side of him, no."

"No one knows the true story and no one ever will, because he's gone and he can't tell us what really happened, or what was really going through his mind," said Nephew Gartavis George.

Both members of the Hayslip family say they never saw any violent action by the long time Police Officer.

updated at 4:41PM by dave.miller@walb.com