Published January 15, 2014
ROSWELL, N.M. – The 12-year-old boy who opened fire in a New Mexico middle school gym warned some students away just before the attack, State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said Wednesday.
Kassetas said the attack at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell was planned in advance. But he said it appeared the boy's victims — an 11-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl — were chosen randomly.
During a Wednesday press briefing, Kassetas declined to speculate on a motive or say when charges would be filed. But he said the boy got the sawed-off shotgun from his family's home and had three rounds of ammunition.
"All three rounds were expended during the incident," Kassetas said. "There was no indication that he had any ammunition other than what was loaded in the gun."
Officials said Wednesday the 11-year-old boy who was shot in the face and neck remains in critical condition at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas. The 13-year-old girl is in satisfactory condition with injuries to the right shoulder.
Kassetas said investigators worked through the night executing search warrants at the school, and determined from those searches that the attack was planned. They examined the boy's locker and the duffel bag the seventh-grader used to transport the 20-gauge pump shotgun to school.
Kassetas said the handle of the gun was sawed off so it had "more of a pistol grip."
The police chief added authorities had some indication that the boy verbally warned "select students" about the attack as he arrived at the school. He didn't elaborate.
When the shots first rang out in the school's gym, some students started laughing, assuming it was just another drill.
It wasn't. But those emergency exercises that students and teachers have undergone regularly for the past two years were being credited Wednesday with the quick disarming of the suspect.
The whole thing was over in 10 seconds, police say, thanks to John Masterson, an eighth-grade social studies teacher who stepped in and talked the boy into dropping his weapon. Masterson then held the boy until authorities arrived.
"He stood there and allowed the gun to be pointed right at him so there would be no more young kids hurt," Gov. Susana Martinez told 1,500 or so people at a prayer vigil late Tuesday.
Others teachers scurried to lock kids in classrooms while students in the gym where the shooting took place dove under bleachers and took cover, said Andrea Leon, a 13-year-old eighth grader at the school.
Leon says she was walking toward the gym, where students gather before class, when she heard the gun shots. She said she knew they were real, "but some people were laughing because they thought it was fake."
"I guess they had been through many drills," she said.
Roswell Superintendent Tom Burris said the staff and students had participated in active shooter training and responded appropriately.
Police and schools nationwide adopted "active shooter" policies after Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 classmates and a teacher, and wounded 26 others before killing themselves in the Littleton, Colo., school's library in 1999. Police waited 45 minutes for a SWAT team to arrive before entering the school. Officers now are trained to confront a shooter immediately.
The family of the injured 11-year-old boy has asked that his name not be released while he recovers.
The suspected shooter was transferred to an Albuquerque psychiatric hospital following a hearing Tuesday, according to attorney Robert Gorence, who is representing his family. Gorence said the family would release a statement Wednesday.