Police tape of Colorado school shooting: ‘There’s a student down’

Their comments are brief — sometimes just a word or two — and sometimes overshadowed by sirens blaring in the background.

But, taken together, the words of police officers who descended on Araphahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., to investigate a shooting paint a fragmentary picture of what they discovered.

It was about 12:30 p.m. Friday when an officer told emergency dispatchers they he had arrived at the high school. Speaking in technical terms, the officers’ words were captured in recordings posted by the Denver Post on the website


“Heading to the north side.”

Slowly, details begin to emerge.

“There’s a fire in the library,” one out-of-breath officer says. “There’s heavy smoke here.”

Later, police officials would tell reporters that two Molotov cocktails were found on campus – one of which detonated. Police would also reveal that one student, a 15-year-old girl, was wounded.

But the extent of possible injuries was not yet known when officers reported their movements at the school.

Just seconds after one officer reports heavy smoke, he begins to say, “I need...” His voice trails off, and then he can clearly be heard saying, “There’s a student down in the athletic hall.”

Later, police would say the gunman, whom they identified as an 18-year-old senior named Karl Halverson Pierson, had killed himself. “I don’t hear any shots now,” one officer says. “The school is locked down.”

Then, once more, a description of the one victim: “We have a student with a bad head injury in the athetic hall.” Then a report of three gunshot shells.

The rest of the recording is filled with more fragments, police confirming their whereabouts or directing others. Through it all, the voices remain calm, steady.

An officer’s request to form a perimeter around the school: Granted. One police car for the northeast side of school. One northwest. One southeast. One southwest.

The wounded student is “rescued” and transported as side streets shut down and police cars continue to flock to the scene.

“If you’re available, will you get SWAT gear and start?”

“We can make entry from south entrance by cafeteria.”

A total of three different teams of police officers end up inside the school.

“We’ll be setting up inside command on the east side of school at 12:51.”

“East Wing is clear at 12:52.”

It wasn’t until about 18 minutes into the 22-minute, 53-second recording that details about the suspect were exchanged:

“A white male with a shotgun wearing a ball cap and cowboy boots.”


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