World

2 dead, 17 injured in Kentucky high school shooting

Police led 15-year-old student away in handcuffs and said the suspect will be charged with murder

School Shooting Kentucky

Police escort a person, second from right, out of the Marshall County High School after a shooting there, Tuesday, in Benton, Ky. Gov. Matt Bevin said two people were killed in the shooting. (Dominico Caporali/Associated Press)

 shares

A 15-year-old student killed two classmates and hit a dozen others with gunfire Tuesday, methodically firing a handgun inside a crowded atrium at his rural Kentucky high school.

"He was determined. He knew what he was doing," said Alexandria Caporali, who grabbed her stunned friend and ran into a classroom as their classmates hit the floor.

"It was one right after another — bang bang bang bang bang," she added. "You could see his arm jerking as he was pulling the trigger."

Police led a teenager away in handcuffs minutes later, and said the suspect will be charged with murder. Authorities did not identify the gunman responsible for the nation's first fatal school shooting of 2018, nor did they release any details about a motive.

Kentucky State Police Lt. Michael Webb said detectives are looking into his home and background.

"He was apprehended by the sheriff's department here on site, at the school, thankfully before any more lives could be taken," Webb said.

School Shooting Kentucky

Kentuckty State Police Lt. Michael Webb speaks during a media briefing at the Marshall County Board of Education following a shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky., Jan. 23. (Ryan Hermens/The Paducah Sun /Associated Press)

Seventeen students were injured — 12 of them hit with bullets and five others hurt in the scramble as hundreds of students fled for their lives from Marshall County High School near Benton, Ky.

Many jumped into cars or ran down the highway, some not stopping until they reached a McDonald's restaurant more than a mile away. Parents left their cars on both sides of an adjacent road, desperately trying to find their teenagers.

"No one screamed. It was almost completely silent as people just ran," said Caporali, 16. "He just ran out of ammo and couldn't do anything else. He took off running and tried to get away from the officers."

The two fatalities were 15 years old: Bailey Nicole Holt died at the scene, and Preston Ryan Cope died later at a hospital, Kentucky State Police Commissioner Richard Sanders said. Cope was among six young men flown about 193 km to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. Sanders said the five others were in critical condition Tuesday night.

The attack marked the year's first fatal school shooting, 23 days into 2018, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, which relies on media reports and other information. The anti-violence group Everytown for Gun Safety has counted at least 283 shootings at schools since 2013.

The governor, as well as several people in Benton, said they couldn't believe a mass shooting would happen in their small, close-knit town. But many such shootings across the nation have happened in rural communities.

Marshall County High School is about 30 minutes from Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, where a 1997 mass shooting killed three and injured five. Michael Carneal, then 14, opened fire there about two years before the fatal attack at Columbine High School in Colorado, ushering in an era when mass school shootings have become much more common.

Meanwhile, in the small North Texas town of Italy, a 15-year-old girl was recovering Tuesday after police said she was shot by a 16-year-old classmate in her high school cafeteria on Monday, sending dozens of students scrambling for safety.

"It's horrifying that we can no longer call school shootings 'unimaginable,' because the reality is they happen with alarming frequency," said former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived being shot in the head years ago. She called on Congress to strengthen gun laws.

'I got up and tried to run'

Tuesday's shooting happened as students gathered in a common area just before classes began. Sixteen-year-old Lexie Waymon said she and a friend were talking about the next basketball game, makeup and eyelashes when gunshots pierced the air.

"I blacked out. I couldn't move. I got up and I tried to run, but I fell. I heard someone hit the ground. It was so close to me," Waymon said.

Kentucky school shooting

A 15-year-old student opened fire with a handgun inside a rural Kentucky high school Tuesday morning, killing two of his classmates, injuring at least 17 and sending hundreds fleeing for safety, police said. (Reuters)

"I just heard it and then I just, everything was black for a good minute. Like, I could not see anything. I just froze and did not know what to do. Then I got up and I ran."

Waymon did not stop running, not even when she called her mom to tell her what happened. She made it to the McDonald's, her chest hurting, struggling to breathe. "All I could keep thinking was, `I can't believe this is happening. I cannot believe this is happening,"' she said.

Taken to another school

It was chaotic outside the school as parents and students rushed around trying to find each other, said Dusty Kornbacher, who owns a nearby floral shop. "All the parking lots were full with parents and kids hugging each other and crying and nobody really knowing what was going on," he said.

Barry Mann said his 14-year-old son called him as he was taken to another school to be picked up: "It sounded like his heart was in his throat."

"They was running and crying and screaming," said Mitchell Garland, who provided shelter to between 50 and 100 students inside his nearby business. "They was just kids running down the highway. They were trying to get out of there."

Garland said his son, a 16-year-old sophomore, jumped into someone's car and sped away before joining others inside his business.

"Everyone is just scared. Just terrified for their kids," Garland said. "We're a small town and we know a lot of the kids."

School Shooting Kentucky

Family members escort their children out of Marshall North Middle School Tuesday, after the students where transported from Marshall High School. The students of the high school were transported to the middle school to be picked up by family members after a shooting. (Stephen Lance Dennee/Associated Press)

More On This Story

More from CBC News

Tell us what you think