School Shooting in Colorado Leaves 1 Student Dead and 8 Injured


HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — Last month, as the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting approached, STEM School Highlands Ranch joined hundreds of schools near Denver in closing temporarily amid security concerns. The anniversary came and went, and schools returned to their routines.

But on Tuesday afternoon, the STEM school’s worst fears were realized when nine of its students were shot, one fatally, and two fellow students were being held as suspects.

“We know two individuals walked into the STEM school, got deep inside the school and engaged students in two separate locations,” Sheriff Tony Spurlock of Douglas County said at a news conference.

At 6:45 p.m., about five hours after the shooting, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office released a statement confirming that one of the nine who had been shot, an 18-year-old man, had died.

Sheriff Spurlock said neither suspect had been on law enforcement’s radar before the shooting and that the motive was unknown.

The sheriff said the injured students were age 15 or older.

Students who were not injured were taken to Northridge Recreation Center in Highlands Ranch, where hundreds of anxious parents gathered to look for their children on Tuesday afternoon.

“I heard a gunshot,” said Makai Dixon, 8, a second grader who had been training for this moment, with active shooter drills and lockdowns, since he was in kindergarten. “I’d never heard it before.”

Makai’s parents said they joined thousands of others in rushing to the school as news blazed through this suburban community.

“We’re more messed up than they are,” Makai’s mother, Rocio, said as they walked to their car.

The shooting at the Highlands Ranch charter school is the latest at an educational institution, rattling communities nationwide because young people have been put in mortal danger in places long considered safe havens. One week earlier, a man with a pistol shot six people on the last day of spring classes at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, killing two.

On Tuesday, as wave after wave of classes were released from the recreation center in Highlands Ranch, high schoolers began walking out in tears, reaching for their parents’ arms and hugging their teachers.

Tyler Rush, 17, a junior, said he had been on the second floor of the school, just above where the shooting occurred. He said that it began during the day’s final period and that the school announced a lockdown in the middle school portion of the building. He and his classmates gathered in a corner and turned out the lights. Some cried. Some sat paralyzed.

“Thank God he’s fine,” Mr. Montoya said.

He said after news of the shooting broke, he could not reach his son and was in a state of shock until they were able to talk to each other.

“We are so lucky,” Mr. Montoya said.

Sheriff Spurlock said the school, which has about 1,800 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, had no police officer assigned to it and used private security instead, but he did not say what actions that security service may have taken during the shooting.

The sheriff said that the school alerted law enforcement “almost immediately after the first gunshots were fired” and that deputies arrived roughly two minutes later.

In Douglas County, the county commission criticized the bill, saying they feared it threatened constitutional liberties, while Sheriff Spurlock emerged as one of its most vocal supporters.

The area’s history of gun violence was front and center in last year’s election for its United States representative. Jason Crow, a Democrat, unseated Mike Coffman, a five-term Republican incumbent supported by the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Crow campaigned openly on gun control — including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and restrictions on high-capacity magazines — and the issue dominated the race.

He was one of several public figures to express his sorrow on Twitter on Tuesday.

“It is with broken hearts that we respond to the news coming out of Highlands Ranch,” he wrote. “We still don’t have all the details regarding the situation at STEM school, but we do know this: we have a public health crisis on our hands. This cannot continue.”

Patrick Neville, a Columbine survivor and the top Republican lawmaker in the Colorado House of Representatives, said in a statement that the shooting was a reminder “of the need to secure our schools.”

He said armed security guards and facility upgrades were the best way to keep students safe.

“School safety programs which include armed security and safety upgrades to school facilities are the best way to stop these criminals from harming our children,” he said.

There have been several high-profile shootings in Colorado in recent years.

In 2010, a man shot two students with a high-powered rifle at a suburban middle school near Highlands Ranch.

In 2012, 12 people were killed at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., about 20 miles northeast of Highlands Ranch.

In 2013, a student in Centennial, Colo., killed himself after he fatally shot another student in the head.



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