SANTA FE, Texas (AP) — An emotional audition on “American Idol” by a survivor of a Texas high school shooting prompted tears from the judges and criticism of the country’s response to gun violence.
Trey Louis was one of the students at Santa Fe High School in May 2018 when another student fatally shot 10 people on campus.
After his audition, which aired on Sunday, Louis told the judges — Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan — that one of the reasons he wanted to participate in the singing competition was because of the shooting.
“Lost a lot of friends. Eight students were killed. Two teachers were killed. It’s just really been negative, man. Santa Fe has had a bad rap here since 2018,” said Louis, who was in an art class finishing a project when the gunman started firing in a room next door.
Perry began to cry, placing her hands over her face and bowing her head. She then lifted her head and yelled out, “Our country has (expletive) failed us.”
“Facts,” Louis said.
“This is not OK. You should be singing here because you love music,” Perry said.
Wiping away tears, Richie said: “We have tolerated this for so long, too long. It’s become a norm.”
Louis told KTRK-TV in Houston that the song he chose for his audition, “Stone” by Whiskey Myers, was in honor of his friend Chris Stone, who was one of the students killed.
The 21-year-old mattress salesman said he didn’t realize he had a talent for singing until about a year ago when he posted a video online of him singing at work. The video went viral, he said, getting thousands of views.
Just before the judges unanimously voted to send Louis to the next round in Hollywood, Perry said, “I hope that you remind people that we have to change because you know what, I’m scared too.”
“We’ve got to change and I hope you can just lead. Can you do me that favor?” Perry said.
“For myself, for my school, for you,” Louis said.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, then a 17-year-old student, has been charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths.
Pagourtzis, now 22, has been ruled incompetent to stand trial and has been receiving mental health treatment at a state hospital since early December 2019. Earlier in February, a judge ordered that he be held at the hospital for up to another year. Santa Fe is located about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of Houston.