By M. Alex Johnson, Staff Writer, NBC News
A quick-thinking teacher may have saved other lives Friday by trying to lure a student brandishing a shotgun away from teenagers at a Colorado high school, where the young man wounded a fellow student before killing himself, authorities said.
The injured student, a 15-year-old girl, was critically wounded and was in surgery after the gunman shot her at Arapahoe High School in Centennial. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said initial reports that the student confronted the gunman turned out not to be true.
A second student initially believed to have been wounded turned out only to have been splattered with some of the girl’s blood, Robinson said at a news briefing late Friday.
The shooter, identified as Karl Halverson Pierson, 18, a student at the school, appeared to be seeking revenge against a specific teacher after an earlier confrontation, Robinson said. He said Pierson said he was looking for the teacher by name when the incident began about 12:33 p.m. (2:33 p.m. ET).
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson details the shooting Friday at Arapahoe High School.
“The teacher exited the school immediately, which was, in my opinion, the most important tactical decision that could have been made,” Robinson said. “That was a very wise tactical decision to try to take the student with him.”
An army of officers responded, having dramatically changed their standing orders after the deaths of 12 students and a teacher 14 years ago at Columbine High School — just about 10 miles away. Instead of waiting for backup, they rushed in immediately.
They found Pierson in a classroom about 20 minutes after they began their search, Robinson said. He said investigators knew his identity and were talking to his family, even as his body remained inside the school Friday night.
Robinson said two devices similar to Molotov cocktails were also found in the building, one of which created a cloud of smoke and the other of which was disarmed. As darkness fell, SWAT officers with dogs were still at the school.