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 today.
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 press briefing, Kassetas declined to speculate on a motive or say when charges would be filed. But he said the boy got the 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 also said today the 11-year-old boy who was shot in the face and neck remained in critical condition at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas. The 13-year-old girl, identified Kendal Sanders, was in satisfactory condition with injuries to the right shoulder. The family of the injured boy has asked that his name be withheld while he recovers.
Kassetas said investigators worked through the night executing search warrants at the school, and determined through 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 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. Kassetas didn’t elaborate. He also declined to speculate on a motive.
The whole thing was over in 10 seconds, officials said, after the boy shot at the ceiling, the floor and then the students. An eighth-grade social studies teacher, John Masterson, then stepped in and talked the boy into dropping his weapon.
Masterson and other teachers were lauded for taking quick action that authorities said would have saved lives had the boy had more ammunition, or had there been another gunman.
Chaves County Sheriff Rob Coon said all the schools in the county, public and private, undergo regular training for dealing with “active shooters.”
“The teachers and the staff at Berrendo knew exactly what to do,” he said. “They went into their lockdown, they followed the way they were taught. If there would have been more than one young man roaming the halls, there would have been minimal damage because they locked that down so quick.”
Andrea Leon, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Berrendo, said students have completed so many drills that some started laughing when the shots first rang out in the school’s gym “because they thought it was fake.”
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 boy accused in the Roswell shooting 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.