U.S. NEWS

Gun Violence Prevents Florida School District From Staging Walkouts Against Gun Violence

The shooting left one student with an injury that wasn't life-threatening.

Just as students around the country were preparing another walkout against gun violence on Friday morning, a 19-year-old man shot a 17-year-old student at Forest High School in Ocala, Florida.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods identified the suspected shooter as Sky Bouche, a former student of the school.

Marion County school officials canceled classes for the rest of the day. Students had planned protests there, a Marion school board member confirmed to CNN, but gun violence had stymied their efforts. 

Craig Ham, Marion County Public Schools’ deputy superintendent of operations, told The Associated Press that Bouche was able to bring a shotgun onto campus by placing it in a guitar case and blending in with students. Once on campus, Bouche fired at the bottom of a locked classroom door, causing pellets to strike one student in the ankle.

Outside the sheriff’s office, Bouche told reporters that he “shot through the door.” Asked by a reporter whether he was sorry, Bouche said, “It doesn’t make it better anyway.”

Within three minutes after hearing gunfire, Deputy James Long, the school’s resource officer, located Bouche and detained him, Woods said at a news conference later Friday. 

Bouche offered “no resistance” during his arrest, Woods said, adding that the motive for the shooting is unclear, though the suspect is cooperating with detectives. The FBI is looking into Bouche’s history and is checking his computers.

The 17-year-old student, whom officials did not publicly identify, suffered injuries that are not considered life-threatening.

Woods said the student told one of his deputies, “I am so glad it was me and not one of my friends.”

The attack occurred exactly 19 years to the day after two teens fatally shot 13 people at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. It also comes at a moment when student activists, most of whom weren’t yet born at the time of the Columbine tragedy, are stirring up momentum for gun policy reform.

The shooting has shaken the community. Jake Mailhiot, a 16-year-old Forest High student, shared an image of his heavily barricaded classroom door with News4JAX:

In other places around the country, students walked out of class at 10 a.m. local time.

A Connecticut teen organized the recent demonstrations, aiming to keep the American public’s focus on gun violence more than two months after a shooter left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It’s the third major student-led protest since the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas.

Ocala is located around four hours north of Parkland by car in a state with some of the nation’s most lax gun laws. 

Although organizers of Friday’s walkout expect students at around 2,500 schools nationwide to participate, overall turnout is expected to be smaller than a similar event staged March 14, on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting. At some schools, students are encouraged to take other action, too, by registering (or pre-registering) to vote and contacting their representatives.

In response to the Forest High School shooting, Woods said that every school campus in Marion County will have “officers and deputies present” starting Monday morning “to ensure that the parents know that law enforcement is there.”

Marina Fang and Carla Herreria contributed reporting.

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