ROCKFORD, Wash. (AP) — A student who opened fire in a hallway at a Washington high school killed a classmate who confronted him Wednesday. He also injured three others before being stopped by a staff member, authorities said.
The suspect, who a classmate described as being obsessed with previous school shootings, was taken into custody. The wounded victims were expected to survive, officials said.
“Freeman hearts are broken in Freeman. It is a very sad day for our Freeman Family. Thank you to students, staff and parents for your patience and calm response,” said a message from school officials to parents posted Wednesday on the Freeman School District’s website and Facebook page.
The shooter brought two weapons to Freeman High School in Rockford, south of Spokane and 30 miles from Coeur d’Alene, but the first one he tried to fire jammed, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told reporters.
“He went to his next weapon,” Kzenovich said. “A student walked up to him, engaged him, and that student was shot. That student did not survive.”
The sheriff said the shooter fired more rounds down the hallway, striking the other students, before a school staffer could stop him. Knezovich called it a courageous act that prevented further bloodshed.
Elisa Vigil, a 14-year-old freshman, told The Associated Press she saw one male student shot in the head who janitors covered with a cloth and another female student wounded in the back.
Michael Harper, a 15-year-old sophomore, said the suspect had brought notes in the beginning of the school year, saying he was going to do “something stupid” and might get killed or jailed. Some students alerted counselors, the teen told AP, but it wasn’t clear what school officials did in response.
A call to the school was not immediately returned.
Harper said the shooter had many friends and was not bullied, calling him “nice and funny and weird” and a huge fan of the TV show “Breaking Bad.” He also said the suspect was obsessed with other school shootings.
After shots were fired, students went running and screaming down the hallways, Harper said.
Authorities didn’t release the suspect’s identity or a possible motive. The victims also were not named.
The Spokesman-Review, however, reported several students who witnessed the shooting identified the suspect as Caleb Sharpe, a sophomore. The witnesses said Sharpe rode a bus to school Wednesday with the guns stashed in a duffel bag.
Luis Prito, an assistant football coach at Freeman High, called the shooting devastating. A vigil was planned Wednesday evening at a nearby church.
“This is a real close-knit community,” he said.
A two-lane road into the town of about 500 people near the Idaho border was clogged as worried parents sped to the school. Some people abandoned their cars on the street to make it to their children.
Cheryl Moser said her son, a freshman, called her from a classroom after hearing shots fired.
“He called me and said, ‘Mom, there are gunshots.’ He sounded so scared. I’ve never heard him like that,” Moser told The Spokesman-Review. “You never think about something happening like this at a small school.”
The Spokesman-Review reported the shooting killed one boy, Sam Strahan, and sent three girls to the emergency room at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. They are Emma Neese, Jordan Goldsmith and Gracie Jensen. Hospital officials said all three patients were in stable condition.
Stephanie Lutje told AP she was relieved to hear her son was safe after his high school near Freeman High was put on lockdown. She commended the school district for its communication.
“It’s been amazing, within probably 15-20 minutes of hearing about it, I’d already received a phone call, I’d already received a text message saying that their school is OK,” she said.
She still worried for others she knew, including a co-worker who had yet to hear from her son, a sophomore at Freeman.
“My stomach’s in knots right now,” she said.
Although 30 miles away, some members of the Coeur d’Alene community were affected personally by news of the shooting.
“Many of our employees, families and former students know Freeman High principal Harry Amend and Freeman superintendent Randy Russell from when they served as leaders in Coeur d’Alene Public Schools. We are keeping them and their community in our thoughts as they cope with this senseless tragedy and begin the difficult journey of healing,” said Coeur d’Alene School District spokesman Scott Maben.
“Many in the Coeur d’Alene district who worked with Harry and Randy were shocked to hear what happened today at Freeman High School, and are relieved to know they were not injured.”
Amend was Coeur d’Alene schools superintendent for six years. He retired from that position in 2008. Russell was principal of Coeur d’Alene High School for five years, leaving in 2011 to accept the superintendent’s job in the Freeman School District.
“We are profoundly saddened by the violence at Freeman High School and offer our deepest sympathies to the victims, their families and all members of the Freeman Schools community,” Maben said.
Staff writer Maureen Dolan contributed to this report.