Published January 14, 2015
A judge has set bail at $1 million in cash for a man accused of walking through a Littleton, Colo., Denver middle school parking lot taking shots at students with a hunting rifle, wounding two students before a teacher tackled him.
Thirty-two-year-old Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood said nothing during the brief hearing Wednesday. He faces two counts of attempted first-degree murder.
He appeared by video hookup from the jail, wearing an orange inmate jumpsuit with his dark, shoulder-length hair hanging loose.
Investigators say Eastwood began firing at students with a hunting rifle outside Deer Trail Middle School in Littleton as teenagers were leaving on Wednesday.
David Benke, a math teacher, tackled him and pinned him to the ground with the help of another teacher.
Investigators say he is not a stranger to Deer Creek Middle school. He has been to the school before, and on Tuesday actually went inside briefly before the shooting. No mug shot was released because photo line-ups are pending with multiple witnesses.
Jordan, a 7th grader at Deer Creek who witnessed the shooting, told FOX31 News that students were waiting outside the school for buses and pick-up around 3:15 p.m. when a man with long hair, wearing a black hat and black jacket, walked up to the front of the school and fired several shots.
"From what I could see he was older, not like a teenager," Jordan said. "It was a very big gun...looked like a rifle." Jordan said she saw two students fall to the ground.
At that point, according to witnesses, math teacher Dr. David Benke tackled and disarmed the gunman, and then helped subdue him along with other teachers and school bus drivers until police arrived moments later.
Steve Potter, a Deer Creek bus driver, witnessed Benke's heroics.
"Dr. Benke was out there at the time the school was being let out. It looked to me like he heard the shot and decided to react accordingly," Steve Potter told FOX31 News. "There was a little bit of a wresting match for about 5 seconds or so," before Benke had disarmed the gunman, Potter said.
Potter, who also helped subdue the gunman after Benke tackled him, said the suspect was rambling incoherently as they held him down.
"He was uttering some obscenities here and there, but nothing that made a whole lot of sense to me."
Officials praised Benke's quick response.
"School staff had already taken a suspect into custody prior to our arrival," Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jacki Kelley said. "Some staff acted very quickly and very heroically."
Kelley said the weapon was a high-powered hunting rifle.
14-year-old Matt Thieu sustained a gunshot wound to the chest and was undergoing treatment at Children's Hospital in Aurora Wednesday. His exact condition was not known at the request of his parents. He was reported in critical condition Tuesday while initial reports said his injuries were not life-threatening.
The other victim, 13-year-old Reagan Weber, was shot in the arm. Both victims were taken to Littleton Adventist Hospital, however, Thieu was later transferred to Children's Hospital.
Weber was treated and released.
A Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokesperson said that while the shootings happened outside the school, one of the victim' had apparently gone back inside the building.
Deer Creek Middle School was closed Wednesday. Nearby Stony Creek Elementary School was closed for classes Wednesday, but it was opening to provide mental health counseling services for students, parents, and school staff. It was not known when the schools would reopen for classes. Parents and staff can check the Jeffco Public Schools website.
"As many school districts have learned, you can prepare, you can train, but I don't think you're every really prepared for something like this to happen," Lynn Setzer with the Jefferson County School District said, adding to her praise of the manner in which school staffers handled the crisis. "In terms of being ready, we train our staff members for a number of different scenarios. This is one of them."
"It's hard to explain why they would target innocent victims," said Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink, who was among the hundreds of law enforcement agents who responded to the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. "It's just mind-boggling to me why someone would do that."
This is not the first time violence has touched Deer Creek Middle School. In 1982, Jason Rocha, then 14-years-old, shot and killed a classmate, 13-year-old Scott Michael Darwin, with a .22-caliber rifle. Rocha was charged as an adult and sentenced to 12-years in prison.
Deer Creek Middle School is located at 9201 West Columbine Drive, not far from Columbine High School where two students went on a shooting spree in 1999, killing 12 classmates and one teacher.
In September 2006, a deranged gunman walked into Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo., holding a classroom of students hostage for several hours before killing 16-year-old Emily Keyes. The gunman then shot and killed himself as SWAT officers stormed the classroom.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.