DENVER (AP) — Two school administrators were shot on Wednesday morning at a Denver high school after a handgun was found on a student subjected to daily searches, authorities said.
The male, juvenile suspect remained at large and the gun was not immediately recovered following the shooting at East High School, Police Chief Ron Thomas said.
The shooting happened just before 10 a.m. in an area away from classrooms as the student was undergoing a daily search as part of a “safety plan,” officials said. One of the administrators was critically injured and was undergoing surgery at an area hospital. The second victim was in stable condition, Thomas said. Both victims are male.
Thomas said police know the identity of the suspect and were confident they would apprehend him.
“He obviously is armed and dangerous and willing to use the weapon, as we’ve learned this morning,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, warning the community as they search for the suspect.
Earlier this month students from the school skipped class and marched to Colorado’s state Capitol to demand stricter gun laws, following the death of a fellow student who was shot while sitting in a car near the school.
There were no school resource officers on campus at the time of Wednesday’s shooting, Thomas said. But following the shooting, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero said two armed officers will be posted at East High School through the end of the school year.
In June 2020, amid a summer of protests over racial injustice following the murder of George Floyd, Denver Public Schools became one of the districts around the US that decided to phase out its use of police officers in school buildings. That push was fueled by criticism that school resource officers disproportionately arrested Black students, sweeping them into the criminal justice system.
School shootings have become increasingly common in the U.S. with 1,045 shootings recorded between 2000 and 2021, according to research from the Naval Postgraduate School and Center for Homeland Defense and Security. More than 300 people were killed and 450 injured in the shootings during that time.
The suspect in Wednesday’s shooting had transferred to East High School from another district, Marrero said. Officials did not reveal why the student was being searched daily.
Marrero said safety plans for students are enacted in response to “past educational and also behavioral experiences,” adding that it’s a common practice throughout Colorado’s public schools.
The school, not far from downtown near a busy street that cuts through the city, was placed on lockdown as police investigated the shooting.
Hundreds of parents lined up along a road near the school, with the scene sealed off by police.
Some parents and students who gathered outside the school vented their frustration over violence at the school as they surrounded Thomas, the police chief.
Thomas listened quietly, nodding and promising to engage with the school board. One man shouted that it was a problem of “evil in the world” while a girl said the violence wouldn’t happen if guns weren’t so easily available. Another man lamented that the school should have a school resource officer.
Parent Jess Haase said her daughter, a senior, texted while hiding in her classroom with the lights off during the lockdown that followed the shooting.
Haase said the lockdowns have happened too frequently at the school this year and she was frustrated. She planned to talk to her daughter about taking her out of school for the coming weeks.
Denver Public School confirmed the victims were administrators.
Wednesday was also the second anniversary of 10 people being shot and killed at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.