Authorities have identified 18-year-old Karl Halverson Pierson as the suspect gunman who opened fire at Arapahoe High School in suburban Denver, Colorado.
Karl Halverson Pierson may have had a grudge against a teacher when he opened fire at school.
Quick-thinking students alerted the targeted teacher, who quickly left the building. The scene unfolded on the eve of the Sandy Hook massacre anniversary, a somber reminder of the ever-present potential for violence in the nation’s schools.
The wounded student, a 15-year-old girl, underwent surgery and is in critical condition. Authorities originally said a second student was wounded, but Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Friday night that the other girl taken to a hospital was covered in blood from the first student and wasn’t injured.
Grayson Robinson did not elaborate on any possible motive except to say Karl Halverson Pierson had a “confrontation or disagreement” with the teacher. He didn’t know if the injured girl was intentionally shot.
Karl Halverson Pierson may have had a grudge against a teacher when he opened fire at Arapahoe High School
Karl Halverson Pierson made no attempt to hide his weapon after entering the school from a parking lot and asking for the teacher by name, Grayson Robinson said.
When the teacher learned that he was being targeted, he left “in an effort to try to encourage the shooter to also leave the school,” the sheriff said.
“That was a very wise tactical decision.”
Jessica Girard said she was in math class when she heard three shots.
“Then there was a bunch of yelling, and then I think one of the people who had been shot was yelling in the hallway, <<Make it stop>>,” she said.
Two suspected Molotov cocktails were also found inside the school, the sheriff said. Grayson Robinson said one was lit and thrown, but no one was injured.
The school was swiftly locked down. Within 20 minutes of the first report of a gunman, officers found Karl Halverson Pierson’s body inside the school, Grayson Robinson said.
Several other Denver-area school districts went into lockdown as reports of the shooting spread. Police as far away as Fort Collins, about a two-hour drive north, stepped up school security.
Arapahoe High students were seen walking toward the school’s running track with their hands in the air, and television footage showed students being patted down. Grayson Robinson said deputies wanted to make sure there were no other conspirators. Authorities later concluded that Karl Halverson Pierson had acted alone.
Nearby neighborhoods were jammed with cars as parents sought out their children. Some parents stood in long lines at a church. One young girl who was barefoot embraced her parents, and the family began to cry.
The shooting came a day before the anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut, attack in which a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Arapahoe High stands just 8 miles east of Columbine High School in Littleton, where two teenage shooters killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves in 1999. The practice of sending law enforcement directly into an active shooting, as was done Friday, was a tactic that developed in response to the Columbine shooting.
Adam Lanza, who killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last year, had “an obsession” with the 1999 Columbine massacre, an official report has found.
Police said there was evidence Adam Lanza, 20, had planned the shooting, which took fewer than 11 minutes.
However, they could not establish why he opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on December 14, 2012, before turning the gun on himself.
The case is now closed, and no charges will be brought, state police said.
While investigators noted Adam Lanza’s obsession with mass shootings, they said there was not enough evidence to understand a motive.
The report also noted Adam Lanza’s “significant mental health issues” – he was diagnosed in 2005 with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder not linked to violence – but said “what contribution this made to the shootings, if any, is unknown”.
Adam Lanza killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last year
Stephen Sedensky, the prosecutor who drafted the report, also noted of Adam Lanza: “Despite a fascination with mass shootings and firearms, he displayed no aggressive or threatening tendencies.”
Before gunning down 20 children and six adults with a semi-automatic rifle at Sandy Hook, Adam Lanza shot dead his own mother at the family home.
“The obvious question that remains is: <<Why did the shooter murder twenty-seven people, including twenty children?>> Unfortunately, that question may never be answered conclusively,” Monday’s report said.
It represents just a part of the evidence collected by Connecticut State Police.
A state law passed earlier in the year said some evidence, including certain images or video of the victims, would never be made available to the public.
Police said “a review of electronic evidence or digital media” belonging to Adam Lanza “revealed that the shooter had a preoccupation with mass shootings, in particular the Columbine shootings and a strong interest in firearms”.
Twelve students and a teacher were killed in April 1999 when two teenagers opened fire in a planned attack at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Other documents at Adam Lanza’s home included a spreadsheet with mass murders listing information about each shooting, two videos showing suicide by gunshot and photocopied newspaper articles from 1891 relating to the shooting of schoolchildren.
The report also outlined the timeline of events as state police understands them.
The shooting began shortly after 09:30 when Adam Lanza forced his way into the locked school by shooting through a glass window near the front doors.
The first call to emergency services came at 09:35 and the last shot, believed to be Adam Lanza firing a handgun at himself, came at 09:40. Most of the deceased were killed in two classrooms.
“In fewer than 11 minutes twenty first-grade pupils and six adults had lost their lives,” the report said.
Donna Soto, the mother of Victoria Soto, one of the teachers killed by Adam Lanza, said in a statement that it was still not clear why her daughter and the others died.