South Dakota school shooter charged with rape, reopening 2015 attempted murder case
Mason Buhl received a suspended imposition for the 2015 shooting at Harrisburg High School. Court documents say he's violated his probation more than once.
CANTON, S.D. — The attempted murder case of a 2015 shooting at Harrisburg High School was reopened this week after the man convicted for the shooting was charged with rape.
Mason Buhl, now 22, was 16 years old when he shot Harrisburg High School principal Kevin Lein in the arm during the school day , forcing the high school into lockdown and sending shockwaves across the community.
Over the course of nearly two years of proceedings, questions arose surrounding Buhl's mental fitness to be tried as an adult, and his lawyer even motioned to transfer the proceedings to juvenile court. After expert testimonials surrounding Buhl’s mental health and competency, the court denied the motion.
In August 2017, at 17 years old, Buhl entered a guilty plea to one count of attempted murder in the first degree, and had the second count dropped.
For his plea, Buhl avoided serving any jail time, and received 15 years of probation. A 25-year sentence to the state penitentiary was suspended, provided he follow his terms of probation and 11 other conditions — including no displays of violent behavior. He was also ordered to have no contact with Lein, Harrisburg High’s Vice Principal Ryan Rollinger or the Harrisburg school system for 15 years.
Four years later, Buhl charged with rape
Almost six years after Buhl shot Lein — and four years into his probation — Buhl is facing a criminal charge and a civil matter, which has reopened the 2015 attempted murder case, leaving him facing a 25-year prison sentence in addition to penalties from the other cases.
On the criminal side, a complaint filed Aug. 4 in Hughes County charged Buhl with second-degree rape, a Class 1 felony. Second-degree rape is defined as rape through the use of force, coercion or threats of immediate and great bodily harm.
Court documents say the rape occurred between June 2020 and July 2021.
Though the court has sealed the victim’s account, a protection order filed by the victim in Minnehaha County describes Buhl’s behavior since their relationship began in 2018.
In a two-page application for a protection order, the victim wrote of Buhl’s forceful, drunken sexual advances, anger when the victim said no and instances where Buhl would punch her in the lower abdomen.
“When I was late, he would punch me with a closed fist, stating that is what will happen if I get pregnant,” the victim wrote.
The application also claims Buhl would text the victim’s friends from her phone to sever their friendships, and would not allow the victim to drive, shower, go to work, use the Wi-Fi and would even control her diet.
“He also pinched me very hard when I ate something he did not prepare for me. In December and January 2021, I was only allowed rice. In February 2021 I was only allowed to eat black beans,” she wrote. “Most recently in May 2021, I was only allowed to eat bread.”
The victim managed to contact her family and arrange to be picked up on July 2, which she called an “escape” from Buhl’s home.
“He also recently bought knives on Ebay … and would mimic stabbing people,” she wrote. “I fear he will further physically abuse me or kill me based on his previous actions and history towards me.”
Rape not Buhl’s only violation
A separate incident from that of Hughes County, court documents filed in Lincoln County allege that Buhl violated his probation in late July.
A previously confidential report from the Sioux Falls Police Department labels Buhl as a suspect in a simple domestic assault case, where Buhl called police to report the same victim as a missing person.
“Mason stated that he was concerned for (the victim’s) safety because he believes the victim’s father is controlling, and if she is there she is not there willingly,” the police report reads.
Police eventually found the victim, who said she had gone on a walk to meet with her grandparents to pick her up without Buhl’s knowledge. The victim was hesitant to show officers any bruises, despite saying Buhl had abused her for three years.
Citing Buhl’s probation status, the victim showed hesitancy to share any additional details with police, and later changed her story to say that her bruises were sustained while Buhl was tickling her, the report says.
When police notified Buhl that they had made contact with the victim, the report says he repeatedly asked for her location. Police say that dispatch was notified not to give him her location.
Buhl is due in a Lincoln County courtroom on Sept. 2 for evidentiary hearings in the reopened 2015 attempted murder case. He is also due in a Hughes County courtroom on Sept. 21 for an arraignment on the rape charge and in Minnehaha County courtroom on Nov. 11 for a protection order determination.
No formal charges have been filed as a result of the Sioux Falls Police Department’s simple domestic assault investigation.