Shooter was former alternative school success story
Portage County Gazette
By Heather McDonald
The 18-year-old charged in connection to a town of Plover shooting incident is a former Charles Fernandez alternative high school standout.
And students at the school Thursday were shocked to hear of Alec Varney’s alleged involvement in the incident.
Students, speaking under the condition of anonymity, said they didn’t understand what could have happened.
“Damn,” one said. “That really isn’t like him.”
Varney was arrested Thursday, April 26, following several hours of evading police after he ran from a home in which two people were shot and one sustained a minor stab wound.
At about 4:49 a.m. April 26, deputies responded to a 911 call of a shooting in the 3800 block of Bluebird Drive in the town of Plover. Initial investigations revealed that an argument occurred during a social gathering, and that Varney shot two men who were identified as his friends and stabbed his mother.
“(They) were there playing video games, smoking marijuana and drinking allegedly. There was some type action that the defendant responded to by shooting his two friends with a shotgun,” said Portage County District Attorney Louis Molepske. “The defendant admitted two shooting the two people and stabbing his mother twice.”
Varney’s mother and one of his friends were treated and released from the hospital; the other friend, who was shot in the abdomen, remains hospitalized but should make a full recovery, officials said.
Varney fled the scene before deputies arrived, but was arrested just before 3 p.m. in the village of Plover without incident after officers conducted a high-risk traffic stop.
He is being held on $100,000 cash bond; Molepske plans to charge Varney with first-degree reckless injury, battery, possession of drug paraphernalia and possibly first degree attempted homicide. A search warrant was executed Saturday, April 30, and among items found were firearms and marijuana paraphernalia.
Varney’s initial appearance is set for 1:30 p.m. Monday, May 14.
Stevens Point Area Public School District put all schools on soft lockdown until Varney was apprehended Thursday afternoon. Plover-Whiting Elementary is just a mile from the location of the incident. Stevens Point Area Catholic Schools, which receive busing from the district and which also has an elementary school in Plover, also was on soft lockdown.
School officials in both districts throughout the day updated parents and assured them that the lockdown was precautionary; that the schools were not in danger. The lockdown was lifted immediately following Varney’s arrest.
While indications are that Varney may have had a troubled youth, at one point he appeared to be turning that around. Varney was recognized in May 2016 as one of five winners of the first Charlie Awards, an honor that recognizes the efforts and resulting success of students at the Stevens Point School District alternative school, Charles Fernandez Center. Awarded students are identified as those who persevere and can serve as role models to others who may be struggling.
At that time, Varney had turned difficult circumstances around, and through the alternative school programming was changing his life and his outlook, he said.
“No matter how tough it gets, you just have to fight through it,” Varney, who was 16 at the time, told the Gazette when he won the honor. “I didn’t realize I was doing that well, but it means that I’m not a failure, and that plaque proves it.”
School district officials declined to comment about Varney and did not allow interviews of the alternative school teachers and principal about Varney, who graduated in January 2017, just nine months after he won the award.
A former teacher of Varney’s, Nicole Batzel, in recommending the award for Varney had said that it was a joy teaching him and watching his personal and educational growth.
“No matter what is going on, Alec will always go out of his way to say ‘hi’ and make sure you are doing well,” she said at the time.
It is a personality that alternative high school students agreed with, which made the incident all the more strange. Some students were so shocked Thursday that they said they suspected Varney “must have been on drugs.”
Varney has three underage drinking citations on his record in Portage County from spring 2017.