When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Shanna Lynn Dreiling

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Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.

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Shanna Lynn Dreiling

In May 2002, 16-year-old Shanna Lynn Dreiling from San Diego, California was shot and killed by police after she and an accomplice — dubbed “a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde” — hijacked a car, abducted two individuals, and shot one of the abductees and left him to die.

In May 2002, 16-year-old Shanna Lynn Dreiling from San Diego, California was shot and killed by police after she and an accomplice hijacked a car, abducted two individuals, and shot one of the abductees and left him to die.

In May 2002, 16-year-old Shanna Lynn Dreiling from San Diego, California was shot and killed by police after she and an accomplice hijacked a car, abducted two individuals, and shot one of the abductees and left him to die.

Shanna lived in the Ocean Beach area of San Diego. She was described by family and friends as “an outgoing and nurturing teenager who loved shopping and clothes” and “wanted to grow up to be a writer or a school teacher.” At the age of 4 she lived with her grandparents. She did not know her birth father until the age of 10 and her mother was going through a divorce with another man. She was enrolled in public school as a child and was popular there.

At the age of 10, Shanna began exhibiting self-destructive behavior as a result of numerous life traumas, including the loss of her beloved uncle to AIDS, her mom getting re-married, and the loss of her grandfather to lymphoma. During her freshman year in high school, Shanna “had fallen in with the meth crowd.” Her family noticed, however, and put her in counseling and changed schools a number of times.

In 2001, Shanna’s family decided to homeschool her. While this seemed to help for a while, it unfortunately enabled her to rekindle her drug use. Mary Ann Smith, a mentor of Shanna’s, said that, “They shouldn’t have let her do home school. There is too much free time… [Shanna’s] mother couldn’t make her stay home and do her work. They shouldn’t have let her out of their sight.”

On the day of her death, Shanna and 25-year-old Aaron Palacios of Mira Mesa went on a crime spree. They kidnapped a college student from San Diego State University at a gas station, hijacked his car, then shot him in the shoulder and left him on the side of the road. (The student survived.) Then they drove to the home of Grant Carr, a biomedical researcher, and held him hostage. They forced Grant into his station wagon and prepared to leave in it. Grant’s wife managed to escape and called 911. As Shannon and Aaron were preparing to leave with Grant, police arrived and shot out the station wagon’s tires. After a 3-hour standoff (during which Grant escaped), Shannon raised a gun to Aaron’s head and was then shot five times by police.

An autopsy report done on Shannon determined she was under the influence of numerous stimulants, including methamphetamine.

In February 2003, Shanna’s family filed a claim of $10,000,000 against San Diego police. Her family alleged the police used excessive force and lacked cause  to shoot the teenager, saying Shanna did not raise her gun until after officers began firing. Aaron, Shanna’s accomplice, was charged the previous month with attempted murder and kidnapping. On May 25, 2003, he was sentenced to 5 consecutive life terms.

View the case index here.

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