Harrisburg school shooter sentenced to 10 years in prison for violating probation

After giving credit for days already spent in jail, Mason Buhl will remain in prison until May 7, 2031.

Mason Buhl, of Sioux Falls, appears in court on Oct. 1, 2015, in Canton. He was later sentenced to probation for shooting and wounding the Harrisburg High School principal.
Barry Amundson / Forum News Service

CANTON, S.D. — A Sioux Falls man responsible for the 2015 school shooting in Harrisburg was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for violating his probation.

Mason Buhl, 23, admitted in a Lincoln County courtroom on Tuesday, April 18, to violating his probation, for which Judge Rachel Rasmussen sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

An additional 15 years were suspended from the sentence, and Buhl was credited for 709 days already spent in jail. In total, he’ll spend just over eight years in prison.

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.

Buhl has been on probation since August 2017, when he was convicted of attempted murder after shooting Harrisburg High School principal Kevin Lein on Sept. 30, 2015. Lein had advocated for a lesser punishment for Buhl, citing his mental health, which resulted in Judge Brad Zell suspending a 25-year prison sentence.

During the 2017 sentencing, Zell told Buhl that if he “exhibit[s] any, any violent behavior whatsoever, I will be quick from any judgment to remove you from society,” and installed a restriction from Buhl getting into any further trouble with the law.


Years later, in August 2021, Buhl was charged with rape in Hughes County, reopening the shooting case in Lincoln County. Buhl accepted a plea deal, pleading nolo contendere — meaning not admitting guilt but accepting of a punishment — to one count of domestic abuse by simple assault.

Mason Buhl pleaded nolo contendere to one count of simple domestic assault, dismissing rape charges. Further hearings regarding the reopened 2015 shooting case are scheduled for next week in Canton.

That criminal charge — and eventual conviction — resulted in at least one aspect as to why Buhl’s case was reopened, though Lincoln County State’s Attorney Tom Wollman has declined to provide additional details on multiple occasions.

With Buhl’s admittance to the violation of his probation, the previously suspended 25-year prison sentence could have been reimposed in full, but a show of leniency from Rasmussen will see only a portion of the term carried out.

A sentence has not yet been issued in his Hughes County case, as Hughes County State’s Attorney Jessica LaMie previously said her office was waiting to hear what sentence he would receive in Lincoln County.

Barring any future violations of the terms of his sentence, Buhl will remain in prison until May 7, 2031.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
What To Read Next
Get Local