A student was killed in a shooting at a high school in Washington State Wednesday.
Three more children were taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center where they were in stable condition, Spokane Fire Department Chief Brian Schaeffer said. Hospital staff said the victims were all in their mid-teens.
Trauma surgeon Mike Moore said that one of the patients was scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday.
“We have three teenagers with us and they are all doing great. They are stable at this point,” he said. “We are thrilled to report that.”
The suspect, a student, was detained shortly after the shooting was reported, police said.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich described the chain of events in a press conference Wednesday.
“Today a student came to school armed. He entered the school, he proceeded to take his weapons out,” he said. “At that point he attempted to fire one weapon. It jammed. He went to his next weapon.”
He opened fire in a hallway on the school’s second floor. Four people, including the deceased, were struck by bullets.
Knezovich said that the student who died had attempted to dissuade the suspect from opening fire on his classmates.
“A student walked up to him, engaged him, and that student was shot. That student did not survive,” Knezovich said.
Knezovich said he believed the incident stemmed from “a bullying type situation.”
A faculty member reportedly took down the suspect before police arrived on the scene, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said.
“It sounds like some very courageous action by a member of the Freeman school staff,” he said. “We still need to verify exactly what his role is but this is another example of someone who had a lot of courage and stepped up and stopped this before it got worse.”
Knezovich said that a school resource officer had handcuffed the suspect after another employee had brought him to the ground. People were sitting on him when police arrived, Knezovich said.
The shooter’s identity remained unconfirmed Wednesday afternoon.
A high school freshman who witnessed the shooting said she recognized the gunman. She recalled acting in an elementary school play with him.
“He was rather outgoing, he did not seem like the kind of kid to do it,” she told KREM2.
The Spokane Valley Fire Department confirmed it responded to an “active shooter” at Freeman High School at around 10:15 a.m.
Freeman High School is located in Rockford in Spokane County. It has 327 enrolled students.
Nearby schools were on lockdown Wednesday morning, Spokane Public Schools said on twitter. The lockdown was lifted less than an hour later, once police reported that the suspect had been taken into custody.
He’s being held at the Spokane County juvenile jail.
Another student at the school reported that she and her classmates had been evacuated from the high school.
She shared an image of students taking cover in a Freeman Elementary School classroom.
“At Freeman elementary currently. I am a junior, evacuated from the high school. At least 4 shots,” she said.
The Freeman elementary, middle and high schools are all located within close proximity to each other.
Teresa Fuller, a spokesperson for the Spokane Police Deparment, confirmed that all students, including those who were in hiding places, had been located and cleared out of the building.
“The high school is completely cleared of kiddos and teachers and staff and now the process begins for us to look at the investigative part of this and what happened…that’s going to take us some time,” she told reporters on the scene.
One parent said that Freeman Elementary students were in PE class at the high school when shots were fired, KREM2 reported.
Authorities had asked students and faculty who witnessed the shooting to remain on campus for interviews with investigators.
Schaeffer expected about 300 interviews to be conducted.
“It’s a very complex situation,” he said. “There is lots of evidence to compile from a forensic standpoint.”
“Processing student witnesses will take a long time,” he said, adding that local, state and federal detectives would contribute to the effort.
Non-witnesses were permitted to leave school premises.
Students interviewed by KREM2 said they were shocked and frightened by the shooting.
Seventeen-year-old Cory Therman described walking past the expressionless gunman Wednesday morning.
“I was in the hallway. I had just walked out of the classroom I was in and he was standing in the middle of the hallway and I walked right past him,” she said.
She said she heard three gun shots before she started running.
“It sounded like someone took their binder and slammed it on the ground,” she told KREM2.
She added that the school had held a lockdown and fire drill practice a day earlier.
A friend of the shooter’s said he saw the suspect show up to school with a duffle bag Wednesday morning.
“But he came to school to sell games and stuff, so I just thought it was that.”
The friend said he didn’t know what drove the suspect to commit the act of violence.
“My friend that did this was trying to make friends with everybody. He didn’t seem like the person to do this,” he told KREM2.
He described his friend as a “weird” kid who was understood by a tight-knit group of friends.
“He fit in with our group. He could just be himself and none of us would judge him,” he said. “He wanted to be friends with kind of everyone.”
The same friend said the suspect had handed out notes to his friends in the beggining the school year, saying he planned to do something “stupid where he gets killed or put in jail.”
At least one of the notes had been handed over to a school counselor, the friend said.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted about an hour and a half after the shooting occurred.
“This morning’s shooting at Freeman High School is heartbreaking. All Washingtonians are thinking of the victims and their families,” he said. “The @wastatepatrol and all state agencies will do whatever we can to help provide support and comfort in the days and weeks to come,” he said.
Spokane Mayor David Condon also issued a statement Wednesday.
“Our hearts are broken by the events at Freeman High School this morning. This is a terrible day for the students, parents, teachers, administrators and the rest of that close-knit community. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this horrendous tragedy. First responders in our region are one team. Spokane City employees were part of that team in the first moments and will be there for the Freeman community as it begins a long road to recovery.”
Classes were cancelled for the remainder of the week. Counselors would be on hand to speak to students and their families.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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