Colorado school shooting: Girl remains in critical condition

Hundreds of Arapahoe High School students attend a candlelight vigil Saturday night to share their prayers for Claire Davis, who was shot Friday inside the school. The vigil was held at Arapaho Park in Centennial, Colo., not far from the school.
(Karl Gehring / Denver Post)
<i>This post has been corrected, as indicated below.</i>

A 17-year-old high school student was battling for her life Sunday as Colorado officials tried to understand why a fellow student shot her and tried to shoot his debate coach last week.

Two days after the incident at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, the wounded student, Claire Davis, remained in critical condition Sunday afternoon at Littleton Adventist Hospital, spokeswoman Lauren Brendel told the Los Angeles Times.

Brendel said she had no information about Davis’ prognosis.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, in an appearance on CBS’ “Face The Nation” on Sunday, said Davis was in a coma after a shotgun blast hit her in the face and that he had visited her and her family in the hospital.


“Her parents are two of the most wonderful people you could ever hope to meet,” Hickenlooper said. “You know, they adopted her. I mean, they are besides themselves, and, really, we all have to keep Claire in our thoughts and our prayers. Her parents ... I can’t imagine what they’re going through. It’s unspeakable.”

Davis may not have been a premeditated target, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said at a Saturday news conference. She was in “the wrong place at the wrong time” as Karl Halverson Pierson, 18, stalked through the high school with a shotgun on Friday, he said.

The pair didn’t appear to interact before Pierson shot her, Robinson said. Pierson unsuccessfully searched the school for a librarian who had been his debate coach, authorities said, before he killed himself in the library after setting off a Molotov cocktail that set bookshelves ablaze.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat who pushed successfully for universal background checks for in-state gun purchases and for limited magazine sizes, was almost at a loss in his “Face the Nation” interview Sunday.

Because Pierson was 18, he was able to purchase his shotgun legally; a sheriff’s deputy was in the building when the shooting began; and Pierson didn’t exactly stand out among other students as a possible gunman, Hickenlooper said.

“He didn’t seem to have a mental illness. He had a lot of friends. He was outspoken. There have been a couple stories that he was bullied, and that’s a recurring theme we see sometimes with these shootings. But, again, there’s no rhyme or reason,” Hickenlooper said.

He added: “We’ve invested over $20 million the last legislative session in mental illness. So we’ve got, you know, 24-7 hot lines. We’ve got mobile crisis centers. We’ve got 24- 7 drop-in centers, really trying to — to intercept people with mental illness before they can cause damage to themselves or to others. And — and yet somehow this kid didn’t exhibit any of those symptoms.”

One of Pierson’s fellow students on the debate team, however, told The Times that his friends were concerned about his behavior.


Larson Ross, 18, a debate team captain, said Pierson had become angrier after a September spat with the debate coach.

“It seemed like he was attacking people to try and elicit a response, and in doing so he would put himself above that person on a mental level,” Ross said. “It started making it tough for a lot of people to be his friend.”

Changes in Pierson were so apparent, Ross said, that his friends were talking about whether they needed to tell someone that he might be “going off the edge.”

Pierson’s attack happened just one hour after their discussion.


Staff writer Saba Hamedy in Los Angeles contributed to this report..

[For the record, 6:03 p.m. Dec. 15: An earlier version of this post said that special correspondent Jenny Deam in Centennial, Colo., contributed to this report. The contributor was actually Times staff writer Saba Hamedy in Los Angeles.]