A lone gunman with a rifle invaded a high school in suburban Portland, Ore. on Tuesday, killing one student and slightly injuring a teacher before he too died, officials said.
Police are still investigating whether the gunman died in an exchange of fire with responding officers or killed himself, Troutdale police spokesman Sgt. Carey Kaer told the Los Angeles Times.
The Oregon incident is the 74th involving guns in schools since the deadly 2012 rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., left 20 children and six educators dead, according to the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety. The group has tabulated all of the incidents, including homicides, suicides and accidents involving guns since the Connecticut attack set off the latest gun control movement.
“This is a tragic day, one that I had hoped would never be part of my experience,” School Supt. Linda Florence told a televised news conference.
“This is an unsettling day,” Troutdale Mayor Doug Daoust told reporters. “My heart goes out to the families.”
Daoust praised police officials for their response and said a drill several months ago at the school may have helped prevent the shooting from being even worse. Officials said the next of kin of the two dead were being contacted, but that they were withholding the names until they were sure of the details.
There was no indication of a motive, how the gunman died or whether he killed himself or was shot.
At the news conference, Troutdale Police Chief Scott Anderson told reporters the situation began at 8 a.m. at the Reynolds High School. Troutdale is about 16 miles from Portland.
The gunman entered the building carrying a rifle, police said. He was heading to the school gymnasium when he fired, injuring a teacher and killing a student.
Jacob Saldaña, 16, a junior, told The Times he saw a teacher who had apparently been shot and “skimmed” in the hip, but who was not seriously wounded.
Saldaña said he was walking in the school as classes were about to start when a school secretary pulled him into the front office and said there was a lockdown. He thought it was just another drill, but the secretary hurried him into a back room away from windows.
“When I got into the room and I saw one of the teachers had a wound, I knew this was not a joke, it was real,” Saldaña said, adding, “He was definitely bleeding … [But] he was really strong for somebody who had a wound, he was kind of walking it off.”
Eventually a police officer came to the front doors of the school and administrators unlocked the door after the officer slipped a card under the door.
They led Saldaña and the others out. As Saldaña ran out of the school, he said he ran past “dozens” of cop cars.
“There is literally cop cars here from every surrounding city,” Saldaña said. “We ran through the cops, then we got to the church across the street, and we were patted down.”
Saldaña added, “It is still surreal right now,” as he was surrounded by hundreds of students at the church, unclear about what happened and what happens next.
Another student, Hannah Amerson, 17, a junior, said she was on her way to school “when I saw at least six or seven cop cars head up the road. I got a really bad feeling so I asked my friends if everything was OK and they said they heard gunshots.”
One of those friends said he had heard about seven gunshots, she said.
“So I turned the other way and went to a friend’s house,” Amerson said. “While walking to my friend’s house, I saw more and more and more cop cars. More than I had ever seen in our town at one time.
“Now I'm safe at home watching the news and talking to whoever I can to make sure I know what's going on."
Savannah Bottenfield, 16, a junior, said she was in the arts building in the bathroom when a girl came in and said they were on lockdown. A teacher came in and they barricaded their door with a trash can because the bathroom door didn’t have a lock.
“We had to be quiet, and the doors to the arts building and the bathroom were unlocked, so I felt really scared and very unsafe because I knew there would be nothing we could do if someone walked in the building,” Bottenfield wrote in an email to the Los Angeles Times. “I sat there for over an hour and a half listening to sirens nonstop in fear because we didn't know what was going on or if our friends were safe.”
Bottenfield added: “Never in a million years would I think this would happen at Reynolds. You never think something tragic and terrifying like this will happen to you until it does.”