JACKSBORO, Tenn. – Principal Gary Seale was shot while wrestling with a student who had opened fire in school and killed an administrator, then managed to get to the intercom and order a lockdown, helping to end the rampage, authorities say.
Seale was shot in the lower abdomen and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce was hit in the chest Tuesday, authorities said. Both were in serious condition in intensive care at University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, spokeswoman Lisa McNeal said.
The administrators and a teacher helped wrestle the gun away from the 15-year-old student, deputies said. Assistant Principal Ken Bruce was shot in the chest and died at a LaFollette hospital, authorities said.
"This situation could have gotten much worse," said Mark Wells, vice chairman of the Campbell County Board of Education. "It did not because our staff followed the (emergency) plan in place."
No students were hurt in Tuesday's shooting at Campbell County Compehensive High School. The 1,400-student school about 35 miles northwest of Knoxville was closed for the rest of the week, officials said.
The suspect, Ken Bartley Jr., was taken to a juvenile detention facility, Sheriff Ron McClellan said.
"He has been in trouble before, but I just wouldn't expect something like this out of him," said classmate Courtney Ward, 17, said of the suspect. "He is a big jokester. He is rowdy. But I just couldn't see him doing this."
Authorities didn't know whether Bartley, 15, would be charged as an adult. They said he was grazed in the hand by a bullet fired from his own .22-caliber handgun when he was subdued.
"I don't know what he was thinking or what his motives were," McClellan said. "Investigators are piecing together ... what exactly transpired."
Parents rushed to the school to pick up their children, causing a massive traffic jam when police closed the campus.
"It is scary, it is terrifying," said Darren Davidson, waiting for his son, Justin.
Davidson's wife, Kizzie, added: "I thought I would have a heart attack before I got here."
Seale and Pierce have been educators more than 30 years, said former assistant principal Clifford Kohlmeyer. Bruce had been a lieutenant colonel in the Army and came back to teaching about eight years ago, Kohlmeyer said.
Tuesday's shooting marked the second time this year that a school employee was fatally shot.
Stewart County school bus driver Joyce Gregory, 47, was killed as she stopped to pick up a student on her route on March 1. Jason Clinard, 15, is charged with her slaying and will be tried as an adult.
In August, a boy was accidentally shot in the leg in a middle school restroom in Jefferson County. The investigation led to charges against two students accused in a plot to kill a teacher at Maury Middle School.
On the Campbell County high school's Web site, Seale welcomed incoming students, saying the staff would do its best "to make these four years as safe and enjoyable as possible."
"The next four years will be the best times of your life," he said. "Many wonderful memories will be made."