Police are still searching for the student who allegedly shot two Denver high school administrators after they found a handgun on him during a routine search prompted by the pupil’s behavioral issues.
A spokesperson for Denver Health hospital confirmed the identities of the victims as Jerald Mason and Eric Sinclair. Mason has been discharged, while Sinclair is still listed under serious condition.
The suspect fled East High School after the shooting, which was reported to police at 9:50 a.m. local time on Wednesday. His vehicle was later found in a mountain area about 50 miles southwest of Denver. As of 5:56 p.m., the suspect remains at large.
Mayor Michael Hancock warned that the gun the suspect used has not been recovered yet, and the suspect is “armed and dangerous and willing to use the weapon.” He asked residents to be on the lookout and described the suspect as wearing a green hoodie with an astronaut on it.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it was “devastating” to hear of the shooting: “Our schools are too often scenes of gun violence instead of safe spaces for our kids to learn.” Jean-Pierre added that President Joe Biden recently announced measures to stop gun violence, but as he said in the State of the Union, “Congress needs to do something.”
What do we know about the suspect?
In a wanted bulletin issued after the shooting, police identified the suspect as 17-year-old Austin Lyle—who police plan to charge with attempted homicide.
“This particular student actually had a safety plan that was in place where they were to be searched at the beginning of the school day every day,” Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas told reporters in a news conference. Thomas said previous searches found no weapons on him.
Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero refused to give details on why Lyle had a safety plan in place, but said that such plans are “very nuanced” and are based on an individual’s “past educational and behavioral experience.”
Cherry Creek School District spokesperson Lauren Snell said Lyle transferred to East High School after being expelled for violating the rules of a high school in nearby Aurora last school year, according to the Associated Press.
What do we know about the victims?
According to the East High School website, Sinclair was Dean of Culture at the school while Mason was a coordinator for restorative practice.
Does the area have a history of violence?
Just last month, 16-year-old student Luis Garcia was shot in his car outside the school, and died weeks later. The incident prompted students to march to the Colorado State Capitol in early March, calling for gun safety legislation.
CBS News Colorado also reported that firearms crimes in Denver’s public schools have gone up, based on their review of police data, especially after the public schools board voted to remove stationed police officers in 2020. In 2018, nine aggravated assaults involving firearms were reported to police; in 2022, there were 14.
There have been at least 366 school shootings in the U.S.—seven in 2023—since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, according to a database by the Washington Post.
How is the school responding?
Marrero said classes in East High School are canceled for the rest of the week. He added two armed officers will be stationed at the school following the incident until the end of the school year.
In a statement, Mayor Hancock admitted that removing the stationed police officers was “a mistake” and added that he is ready to work with Denver’s public schools on a solution.
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