A 17-year-old student fatally injured two Denver high school administrators Wednesday morning after a handgun was found during a daily search of the boy due to behavioral issues, authorities said.
Suspect Austin Lyle remained at large after the shooting at East High School and was wanted for attempted homicide. The gun he used was not immediately recovered, Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas said.
Police issued an alert linking Lyle to a red 2005 Volvo X90 with Colorado plates and offered a reward of up to $2,000 for information about the case.
The shooting happened just before 10 a.m. in an area away from classrooms as the student was being searched as part of a ‘security plan’ which required him to be searched daily, officials said.
One of the administrators was seriously injured and underwent surgery Wednesday at an area hospital. The second victim was in stable condition, Thomas said. Both victims are men.
Thomas said police knew where the suspect lived and were confident they would apprehend him.
“He is obviously armed and dangerous and ready to use the weapon, as we learned this morning,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said, warning the community of the search for the suspect.
Earlier this month, students at the school skipped class and marched to the Colorado state capitol to demand tougher gun laws, following the death of a student who was shot while sitting in a car near the school.
East High School had no school resource officers on campus at the time of the shooting, Thomas said. After the shooting, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero said two armed officers would be assigned to the school until the end of the school year.
In June 2020, amid a summer of protests against racial injustice following the murder of George Floyd, Denver Public Schools became one of the districts across the United States that decided to phase out the use of police in school buildings. This push has been fueled by criticism that school resource officers have disproportionately arrested black students, dragging them into the criminal justice system.
Gun violence in schools has become increasingly common in the United States, with more than 1,300 shootings recorded between 2000 and June 2022, according to researchers from the Naval Postgraduate School and the Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Those shots killed 377 people and injured 1,025, according to a database maintained by the researchers.
Students from East High School were scheduled to testify Wednesday afternoon before the Colorado legislature on gun safety bills.
“It’s the reality of being young in America: witnessing a shooting and waiting for information just hours before you have to testify in support of gun safety bills,” Gracie said. Taub, a 16-year-old sophomore at East High School. and volunteer with Students Demand Action in Colorado.
“Our school experience should not be completely shaped by gun violence,” she added.
The suspect in Wednesday’s shooting had been transferred to East High School from another district, Marrero said. Officials did not disclose why the student was being searched daily.
Marrero said student safety plans were enacted in response to “past educational and behavioral experiences,” adding that it was standard practice in Colorado public schools.
But daily pat-downs are rare, said Matthew McClain of the Colorado School Counselor Association.
“Obviously they were worried,” said Franci Crepeau-Hobson, a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver who specializes in school violence prevention. “I can’t imagine they would do this if there wasn’t a history of a child carrying a gun for some reason.”
School safety plans are often imposed after students exhibit threatening or suicidal behavior, said Christine Harms, director of the Colorado School Safety Resource Center. A safety plan team can include counselors, administrators and police who assess the possible threat and develop a safety plan, which can include mental health support, more supervision and research, she said. .
East High School, not far from the city center near a busy street that runs through town, was taken under lockdown as police investigated the shooting.
Hundreds of parents lined a road near the school, with the scene cordoned off by police.
Some parents and students expressed frustration at the school violence as they surrounded the police chief. Others argued over the causes of the violence.
Thomas listened quietly, nodding and promising to talk to the school board.
On the edge of the crowd, a man said members of the city’s school board should be called back for getting rid of the police at the school, telling a nearby police officer, “I just want you to be able to do your job.”
Another man shouted that it was an “evil in the world” problem while a girl replied that violence wouldn’t happen if guns weren’t so readily available.
A parent, Jess Haase, said his elderly daughter texted while hiding in a classroom with the lights off during the lockdown. Haase said the closures happened too frequently at the school this year and she was frustrated. She planned to talk to her daughter about pulling her out of school for the rest of the school year.
“I’m fed up,” she said.
Denver Public Schools confirmed the victims were administrators.
Wednesday was also the second anniversary of 10 people being shot and killed at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she was unsure if Joe Biden had been told about the school shooting, but said: “Our hearts go out to the families of the two school administrators in Denver today and to the entire school community.”
She repeated Biden’s call for tougher gun laws, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and for Congress to “do something” about gun control. fire arms.