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Law enforcement says Aztec school shooting details forthcoming

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Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 3:58 PM
Loretta Mitchell tears up while talking about her son Bill Kearney, a 10th-grader at Aztec High School who hid in a stairwell during an active shooting at the school Thursday morning. The shooter and two students are dead.
Parents gather at McGee Park Convention Center in Farmington to pick up their children after a shooting at Aztec High School on Thursday morning.
Students at Aztec High School are being moved by buses to an unknown location after an active shooting at the school that has left three people dead. The shooter is reported to be among the fatalities.
Aztec Law enforcement continue to investigate a shooting Thursday morning at Aztec High School that left three people dead, including the shooter.
Roads are blocked around Aztec High School after a school shooting Thursday morning that left three people dead, including the shooter.
Parents gather at McGee Park Convention Center in Farmington to pick up their children after a shooting at Aztec High School on Thursday morning.

AZTEC – Law enforcement provided few details Thursday afternoon during a news conference about three people who were killed earlier in the morning at Aztec High School. They said the investigation is ongoing and more information will be provided in the next couple of days.

New Mexico State Police confirmed the shooter was a male, but authorities declined to identify the suspect or say whether he was a student at Aztec High School. The two victims were students.

They also declined to say how many weapons were used or what kinds of weapons were used, and how the incident unfolded.

Authorities said they believe they know the identities of the victims, but no positive identification has been made, and, therefore, they are not releasing names today. They did say both victims are students.

Besides the three deaths, no one was injured – despite reports on social media that 15 people had been injured, officials said.

Speaking at the news conference, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said several acts of bravery helped save lives during the at the small-town high school.

Martinez told reporters that teachers, school staff and law enforcement jumped in quickly to prevent more deaths. She did not provide any details.

The governor described the day as difficult and called the shooting a heinous and horrific act. She called for New Mexicans to unite and support the small community of Aztec.

Aztec High School sophomore Garrett Parker told Albuquerque television station KOAT that he was upstairs in history class when he heard what he initially thought was students banging on lockers Thursday.

As the noise got louder and closer, school officials warned over the intercom system that it wasn’t a drill.

Parker says he’s thankful his teacher always locks the classroom door. He and other students moved to a corner of the room out of sight of the door and hid.

Before the news conference, cars lined up at McGee Park Convention Center in Aztec as parents arrived to pick up their children who are students the school. The students were bused there after being in lockdown for an unknown period of time.

The shooting prompted La Plata County schools to take precautions all day.

“We’re on alert,” said Julie Popp, spokeswoman for Durango School District 9-R said earlier Thursday. “We’re sweeping the schools and having more of our administrators present in the hallways to ensure safety and security of our staff and students, but no lockdowns in our community right now.”

The school released the following statement:

“We are saddened to hear the news of the school shooting that occurred at Aztec High School this morning. Tragedies like this stretch far and we are all affected by this news and are thinking about our neighbors to the south as they deal with the aftermath of what occurred.

“We have been informed that the shooter has been apprehended and the immediate threat is mitigated. However, as with any incident, we will remain on alert and will conduct the appropriate safety measures at our schools to ensure the safety and security of our staff and students.

“Students and staff will react in different ways to incidents such as this. We should all expect and try to understand that there will be a variety of emotions and responses to what has occurred. The most important thing you can do is to be supportive and encourage an open expression of feelings. We recommend maintaining as normal a routine as possible. This recommendation has evolved from the district’s experience with tragedies in the past and the advice of mental health professionals from the community.

“If you find you need additional supports or your students do, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your school administrator, teacher or counselor for additional resources available to students. We know you will join us in our concern for their community.”

Bayfield High School Principal Leon Hanhardt put out the following notification:

“The suspect has been apprehended. We have conferred with local law enforcement and there is no threat to Bayfield High School, but as a precautionary measure, we have increased safety protocol and the presence of law enforcement throughout the school.

“We have also increased perimeter sweeps and will have increased awareness in the halls and around campus. I realize the amount of students and staff that have connections to Aztec High School and its community. We have staff in the counseling office to assist with any student who may need to discuss the situation.

“Remember that student safety is our top priority in Bayfield School District. Thank you and please feel free to reach out with any questions. Our thoughts are with the Aztec community.

Ignacio High School is in a lockout, which means classwork continues inside the building, but no one is allowed into the building except staff and parents, said Kathy Pokorney, the curriculum director for Ignacio schools. Police officers are also at the school, she added.

Fort Lewis College said its counseling center will be open Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist students. Walk-ins are welcome. FLC said there is no reason to believe there is a threat on campus.

La Plata County Sheriff’s Office assisted with the school shooting, said Lt. Ed Aber.

mrupani@durangoherald.com

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