A male student who was being patted down in a routine safety check shot two faculty members at a Denver high school early Wednesday, police and school officials said.
The suspected shooter, identified as 17-year-old Austin Lyle, was at large, and the weapon was not found at the school, Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas said in a news conference. He was wanted for attempted homicide.
The Denver Police Department said in a tweet at about 6 p.m. that the suspect’s SUV was located in Park County. The Park County Sheriff’s Office later said officials found a body in the woods near the vehicle but did not say whether the body was identified as the suspect. A shelter-in-place order was lifted, the county said.
The two school administrators were taken to a hospital, Thomas said. One was in serious but stable condition, and the other was in surgery in critical condition, he said.
East High School student had ‘safety plan’
The student had a “safety plan” with school staff and was regularly searched upon entering the building in a “secluded” area near the front of the school, away from other students and staff, Thomas said.
School staff did not recover a firearm during previous searches, Thomas said. But on Wednesday, the student pulled out a handgun during the search, fired shots and fled the building, Thomas said. Officers received a call about a shooting at 9:15 a.m. local time, he said.
Paramedics were already in the building when the shooting happened because they were responding to a student who was having an allergic reaction in an unrelated incident, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said. That student was also taken to a hospital, he said.
Alex Marrero, superintendent of Denver Public Schools, said students are assigned “safety plans” based on “past educational and also behavioral experiences.” He declined to offer further details when asked by reporters.
Officers were executing a search warrant at the student’s home, Thomas said.
East High School students released from lockdown
Denver Public Schools said students were released from lockdown Wednesday afternoon. “Students who drove will be escorted to their cars & can leave. Students who ride the bus will be held until their bus arrives,” Denver Public Schools wrote on Twitter.
The Denver Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was on the scene, the agency said on Twitter.
East High School to add armed officers
School would be canceled through the end of the week, and two armed officers would be stationed at the school through the end of the academic year, Marrero said.
“I really, really feel strongly that we shouldn’t be here, but here we are,” Marrero said. “My prayers to the East community and of course our two staff members who are in the hospital.”
East High School is located on the east side of Denver and has approximately 2,500 students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
East High School shooting comes weeks after student shooting death
The shooting comes more than a month after a 16-year-old student, Luis Garcia, a star soccer player, was shot near the school, prompting a lockdown. Garcia was in a car at the time when someone fired from another vehicle, police said at the time.
Garcia was taken off life support in early March, and students gathered for a memorial outside the school the next day, locals news outlets reported. That same week, hundreds of students marched to the Colorado state Capitol to demand state lawmakers take action to prevent more gun violence.
“This school has gone through a tremendous time over the last year or so,” Thomas said. He added: “We’ve had a significant presence in the school since the first incident that happened just over a month ago.”
Alexander Cisneros, a Students Demand Action leader and junior at East High School, and another Denver-area high school student were previously scheduled to testify before the Colorado Legislature Wednesday regarding a bill that would strengthen the state’s extreme risk law.
“Our school experience should not be completely shaped by gun violence, and every single incident is traumatizing for our entire community,” said 16-year-old Gracie Taub, an East High School sophomore who is a volunteer with Students Demand Action in Colorado and co-lead for the school’s Students Demand Action chapter. “We are calling on lawmakers to meet this moment with the urgency it needs — we can’t sit around waiting for another tragedy to happen.”
83rd shooting on school grounds this year
The shooting at East High is the 83rd shooting on a K-12 school campus this calendar year, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database. Last year saw the most incidents of gunfire on school grounds in the U.S. since at least 1970, according to the database.
“We can’t continue to live like this,” U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who represents Denver, wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “We have to do more to protect our schools and community from gun violence.”
Meanwhile, student activists with March for Our Lives planned to demonstrate in five U.S. state capitals this week to mark five years since the original marches in the wake of the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Wednesday also marked two years since the mass shooting at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, that left ten people dead.