A gunman opened fire in the hallway of a Washington State high school, killing one student and sending classmates fleeing before being tackled by a staff member.
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.
The suspect, identified by KREM as student Caleb Sharpe, was taken into custody by police and is being held in juvenile jail.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told reporters that the shooter came to school armed with two guns, unloading bullets into a second-floor hallway before switching to his second weapon when the first one jammed.
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,” he said, adding that he believed the incident stemmed from “a bullying type situation.”
Trauma surgeon Mike Moore said that three victims were stable, but that one patient was scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday evening.
A faculty member reportedly took down the suspect before police arrived on the scene.
“It sounds like some very courageous action by a member of the Freeman school staff,” Knezovich 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.”
A school resource officer reportedly handcuffed the suspect after another employee had brought him to the ground. People were sitting on him when police arrived, Knezovich said.
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.
Seventeen-year-old Cory Therman told the station that she passed by the gunman before hearing shots ring out.
“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.
Teresa Fuller, a spokesperson for the Spokane Police Department, confirmed that all students, including those who were in hiding places, had been located and cleared out of the building after the active shooter alert.
Freeman High School, located outside central Spokane in Rockford, has 327 enrolled students.
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 beginning 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.
With CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN