ROSWELL, N.M. – The 12-year-old boy who opened fire on a crowd of students in a New Mexico middle school gym had planned the attack and warned some classmates to stay away moments before the gunfire rang out, investigators said Wednesday.
State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said it appeared the victims in Tuesday’s shooting at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell — an 11-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl — were chosen randomly.
The shotgun used by the boy came from his family’s home, and he had three rounds of ammunition, Kassetas said at a news conference.
“All three rounds were expended during the incident,” the police chief said. “There was no indication that he had any ammunition other than what was loaded in the gun.”
He declined to speculate on a motive.
The 11-year-old boy who was shot in the face and neck remained in critical condition Wednesday 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.
Meanwhile, the suspected shooter’s family issued a statement Wednesday saying they were heartbroken and that their remorse could not be put into words. They said the two children who were injured have been in their thoughts and prayers.
“We are horribly sad over this tragedy on so many levels,” the family stated. “We are praying that God will be with everyone who has been affected.”
The family added it will cooperate with law enforcement to “piece together how this awful tragedy occurred.”
Police have not released the boy’s name, and The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify juveniles who are accused of crimes.
Police didn’t say when charges would be filed, only that they were working with the district attorney’s office. Kassetas described the case as complex.
He 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.”
He 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.
The shooting spurred a flood of 911 calls from students Tuesday morning. In some, screaming could be heard in the background.
The shooting was over in 10 seconds, officials said, after the boy fired 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’ve 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,” Coon 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 “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. His family said they were thankful the judge ordered that he receive an evaluation and mental health treatment.