ROSWELL, N.M. – The 12-year-old boy who shot two classmates inside a middle school gym fired a shotgun three times, randomly striking the students, officials said Wednesday.

Investigators have completed searches of the suspect’s school locker, his home and a duffel bag he allegedly used to bring the shotgun into the building. They believe the boy planned Wednesday’s attack at Berrendo Middle School, New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said.

The chief said he could not name the suspect because of his age.

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But after 60 primary interviews and the searches, police are still seeking a motive for the morning attack. 

“I believe when the incident occurred the victims were random,” Kassetas said.

Kendal Sanders, 13, and Nathaniel Tavarez, 12, were hospitalized at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, a hospital spokesman said Tuesday.

Kendal, who had been shot in the shoulder, was in stable condition Wednesday, Gov. Susana Martinez said at a Wednesday news briefing.

The boy, whose parents have asked for privacy, is in critical condition with wounds to the side of his face and neck, said the governor, who asked “all New Mexicans to continue to pray for this young man and Kendal.”

The suspect is in custody in Albuquerque, the chief said. Officials have yet to decide how to charge the boy.

But investigators are have reconstructed an early timeline, based on interviews and evidence, Kassetas said.

Students had come in out of the cold and were waiting in the gymnasium for the start of the school day, officials said.

The shooter entered with a .20-gauge shotgun, whose grip had been sawed off so that it resembled a pistol grip, the chief said. The boy fired three times, each round filled with birdshot. The order of the shots was unclear, but one round went into the ceiling, one into the floor and the third into a crowd of students. Kassetas estimated that the students were hit from about 12 to 15 feet away.

The shotgun came from the boy’s home, the chief said.

Meanwhile, officials prepared to reopen the school Thursday. Counselors, who have been available Wednesday will continue to be on hand Thursday when the children return.

"This is a very, very difficult situation,” said school Supt. Tom Burris. “These are our kids. They don’t stop being our kids because they are injured or are incarcerated.”

Burris said every teacher and staffer is at the school preparing for the return of students. They are being told they have to lead by example despite the tragedy.

They are the “face of courage, face of love, face of positive that you have to put on for every one of our kids,” Burris said. “You are the leader of this class.”


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