One student is dead and three others are injured after a shooting at Freeman High School in Rockford, Washington, on Wednesday morning.
Sophomore Sam Strahan was fatally shot in the head, reportedly while trying to stop the suspect from carrying out the shooting. Three other students have been treated for serious injuries at Sacred Heart Medical Center, Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer told reporters outside the high school.
Community members held a vigil for Strahan at a downtown Spokane mall on Wednesday night and recalled him as a “positive and happy spirit” and “class clown,” The Spokesman-Review reported.
His relatives are asking supporters to donate to a GoFundMe page for the family that was launched in June, when Strahan’s father Scott died.
The suspect, a 15-year-old male student who has yet to be identified, is currently being detained at the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says they intend to try him as an adult.
Knezovich said in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon that the suspect entered campus with two firearms and began shooting in a hallway on the second floor of the school. He “came to school armed, entered the school, proceeded to take his weapons out. At that point, he attempted to fire one weapon ― it jammed,” Knezovich told reporters that day. “He went to his next weapon. A student walked up to him, engaged him, and that student was shot. That student did not survive.”
Knezovich said Strahan had “tried to walk up and tell [the suspect] that this isn’t what you want to do.”
A school staff member reportedly apprehended the suspect after he shot Strahan and the three other students.
Our hearts are broken by the events at Freeman High School this morning. Spokane Mayor David Condon
Cory Therman, a senior at the high school, told local news station KREM News 2 that she saw the suspect holding a gun in the hallway right before the shooting.
“When I walked past him, he was just standing there with no expression,” Therman told the station. After she passed him, Therman said she heard three gunshots and ran away with other students.
Another student, 14-year-old Elisa Vigil, told KREM News 2 that she saw a girl get shot in the back. Vigil said she crouched down, held hands and prayed with the girl.
“He had his pistol. His face was completely passive. He shot someone in the head,” Vigil told The Spokesman-Review of the suspect. “I crouched down in the hall. I looked up and a girl screamed, ‘Help me, help me, help me.’ The hall was empty. She was shot in the back. I looked to my right, and there was a boy and he was shot in the head.”
Three hundred students and faculty members in school at the time of the shooting will need to be interviewed, law enforcement officials told reporters. Freeman High School is a relatively small school with 327 students and 16 full-time teachers, according to The Spokesman-Review.
Michael Harper, 15, told The Spokesman-Review that he was a close friend of the shooter. He described the suspect as “nice” and “weird” but said he “never really seemed like that person who had issues.” Harper also told the newspaper that the shooter had given his friends handwritten notes that indicated he was planning to do “something stupid.”
“He made a note,” Harper told The Spokesman-Review. “I didn’t get mine, but my friends got theirs. I read one of my friends’ and it said he was going to do something stupid. He took it to a counselor.”
The shooting prompted the Spokane Public School District to put all campuses on lockdown at around 10:30 a.m. local time. The lockdown was lifted almost an hour later.
Shortly after the shooting, a junior at the high school tweeted a picture from nearby Freeman Elementary School, where many of the students had fled. In the photo, students can be seen crouched on the floor.
A parent told KREM 2 News that elementary school students had been scheduled to use the high school facilities the morning of the shooting.
In a statement, Spokane Mayor David Condon called the incident a “horrendous tragedy.”
“Our hearts are broken by the events at Freeman High School this morning. This is a terrible day for the students, parents, teachers administrators and the rest of the close-knit community,” Condon said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this horrendous tragedy. First responders in our region are one team. Spokane city employees were part of that team in the first moments and will be there for the Freeman community as it begins a long road to recovery.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) tweeted thanks to school staff and first responders and said that state agencies would be available for assistance.
This story has been updated to identify the student who was killed.