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News / Clark County News

Parents criticize district response as new details in shooting outside Evergreen High School emerge

Shooter was Evergreen student, had been in building earlier in the day

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: October 24, 2023, 5:11pm

A spokesperson for Evergreen Public Schools confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the teenaged suspect arrested with a firearm on school grounds Thursday was a student at Evergreen High School and that he had been in the school building before the shooting Thursday.

Parents and community members in Evergreen are criticizing the district’s communication of information on Thursday and in the days that followed a shooting in the McKenzie Stadium parking lot, which forced prolonged lockdowns at Evergreen High School and Cascade Middle School. Nobody was injured.

A release shared by Vancouver Police Department Thursday afternoon previously said the suspect arrested was “not believed to be a student” at the school. Information shared by the school district as lockdowns began had not specified where the shooting had taken place.

As the scene unfolded, some parents said they were relying on information from their children regarding what really happened and that emails from the district obscured what had happened and whether it was on school grounds.

Chuck Keplar, an assistant football coach and candidate for school board, said in a Facebook post Friday that he witnessed the events and felt the district was downplaying the severity of the situation and obscuring specific details.

“I spoke with (Superintendent John Boyd) on Friday morning, and he insisted that they were not trying to soften their communication, but I see it very differently,” he said. “A student of Evergreen High School fired shots toward staff and students that were on school grounds. Does anyone feel the narrative that is being put out by Boyd and the district is fair and accurate?”

About the incident

Around 1:08 p.m. Thursday, Vancouver Police Department officers arrived on scene after a 911 call reported shots were fired in the vicinity of Evergreen High School. Officers arrested 16-year-old Kikarson Asan in the parking lot of McKenzie Stadium, which is district property between the school and Cascade Middle School.

Asan — an Evergreen High School student — was arrested on suspicion of first-degree assault, second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a deadly weapon on school grounds. The probable cause affidavit for Asan’s arrest stated that he had fired multiple rounds from an illegally possessed handgun at two other students in the direction of Evergreen High School. While no one was hit, several reports detailed staff and students running toward the school and hearing bullets in the air.

Each of the schools sharing a campus with the stadium were put on lockdown, the parking lot was closed off and students were bused to the district headquarters on LeRoy Haagen Boulevard for pickup.

Keplar and parents of other students at Evergreen and Cascade said the shooting had stemmed from a fight that took place at the school earlier that day, which was not mentioned in any releases shared by the district or police department.

Evergreen spokesperson Craig Birnbach said via email Tuesday that such a fight had taken place in the Evergreen courtyard, was broken up and that “some students who were involved in the fight walked away from the school and in the direction of McKenzie Stadium.”

District’s timeline

The first email sent to families from school and district officials at 1:27 p.m. Thursday said Evergreen and Cascade went into lockdown at 1:15 p.m. due to “police activity in the neighborhood.” A second email sent 25 minutes later added there had been a 911 call “with a report of gunshots in the area,” that no injuries had been reported and that Vancouver police were on campus.

At 2:42 p.m., Evergreen Public Schools sent an update alerting families that students were being bused to the district’s Administrative Service Center and that students who drove to school would have to wait until the area was cleared by police. No additional information was provided other than “reports of gunshots near (Evergreen High School).”

At 7:03 p.m., the district announced Friday classes would begin two hours late for Evergreen and Cascade and additional counselors would be available on site throughout the day. The statement again said there were “reports of shots fired in a parking lot near McKenzie Stadium” but did not share details about whether the suspect was a student or explicitly that the incident had occurred on district property.

The final update Thursday evening came from Boyd, who specified that shots were fired “in a parking lot to the south of McKenzie Stadium,” adding that “McKenzie Stadium is near Evergreen High School and Cascade Middle School.”

Addressing concerns

Birnbach said via email Tuesday that Evergreen had shared information Thursday as it became available and that Boyd’s final message was as specific as possible.

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“It was important to share the exact location so people could differentiate the factual details shared by law enforcement from inaccurate information that was being shared in some social media posts which included posts that said the gunshots were fired in the school,” Birnbach wrote.

After a late start Friday, Evergreen Principal Danny Orrantia made a schoolwide announcement for how students could seek additional counseling services if needed.

On Monday, the district said it maintained a staff of additional counselors at both Evergreen and Cascade and administrators at Cascade visited English classrooms to speak about the incident in small groups with students.

Tomiko Saldia, a parent of an eighth-grader at Cascade Middle, said she never received any communications regarding the incident from the district and instead had to rely on texts from fellow parents and her son to stay informed of the situation Thursday. Like many other parents Thursday, she drove to the school to retrieve her son.

“I could have gone the whole day without knowing if my friend haven’t texted me,” Saldia said. “They’re trying to move forward and pretend like this didn’t go on. They want to assure us that what happened was OK. Nothing about it was OK. We will not get used to being treated like this.”